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A Chapter in Manchester History. Containing a 
facsimile of Cobden's pamphlet, " Incorporate your 
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Mackintosh. With a Photogravure Frontispiece, a 
Map, and 64 other Illustrations. Second Edition. 
Demy 8vo, 153. net. 


By the Right Hon. John Morley, M.P. With 
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' RUC. 







[All rights reserved.} 


(Born December 3, 1795, (Born November 25, 1796, 

Died August 27, 1879) Died May 27, 1881) 




" A fond desire to preserve the memory of those we love from oblivion is an almost 
universal sentiment," 

(Lord Dufferin on his mother Songs, Poems, and 

"Reform does not spell ruin, lads remember Rowland Hill!" 

(Punch on the Postal Reform Jubilee, 1890.) 


IN Gladstone's " ' musings for the good of man,'' 
writes John Morley in his Life of the dead states- 
man (ii. 56, 57), the " Liberation of Intercourse, to 
borrow his own larger name for Free Trade, figured 
in his mind's eye as one of the promoting condi- 
tions of abundant employment. ... He recalled the 
days when our predecessors thought it must be for 
man's good to have ' most of the avenues by which 
the mind and also the hand of man conveyed 
and exchanged their respective products ' blocked or 
narrowed by regulation and taxation. Dissemination 
of news, travelling, letters, transit of goods, were all 
made as costly and difficult as the legislation could 
make them. ' I rank/ he said, * the introduction of 
:heap postage for letters, documents, patterns, and 
>rinted matter, and the abolition of all taxes on 
minted matter, in the catalogue of free legislation, 
'hese great measures may well take their place 
beside the abolition of prohibitions and protective 
duties, the simplifying of revenue laws, and the repeal 
of the Navigation Act, as forming together the great 


code of industrial emancipation." To the above the 
biographer adds that in Gladstone's article in the 
Nineteenth Century on Free Trade, Railways, and 
Commerce, he divided the credit of our material 
progress between the two great factors, the Liberation 
of Intercourse and the Improvement of Locomotion. 

In view of the occasional attempts to revive the 
pernicious franking privilege, and of the frequently 
recurring warfare between Free Trade and the rival 
system, whose epitaph we owe to Disraeli, but whose 
unquiet spirit apparently declines to rest within its 
tomb, the present seems a fitting time to write the 
story of the old reform to which Gladstone alluded 
" the introduction of cheap postage for letters," etc., 
the narrative being prefaced by a notice of the 
reformer, his family, and some of his friends who are 
not mentioned in later pages. 

My cousin, Dr Birkbeck Hill's " Life of Sir 
Rowland Hill and History of Penny Postage" is an 
elaborate work, and therefore valuable as a source of 
information to be drawn upon by any future historian 
of that reform and of the period, now so far removed 
from our own, which the reformer's long life covered. 
Before Dr Hill's death he gave me permission to take 
from his pages such material as I cared to incorporate 
with my own shorter, more anecdotal story. This has 
been done, but my narrative also contains much that 


has not appeared elsewhere, because, as the one of 
my father's children most intimately associated with 
his home life, unto me were given opportunities of 
acquiring knowledge which were not accessible to 
my cousin. 

Before my brother, Mr Pearson Hill, died, he read 
through the greater portion of my work ; and although 
since then much has been remodelled, omitted, and 
added, the narrative ought to be substantially correct. 
He supplied sundry details, and more than one 
anecdote, and is responsible for the story of Lord 
Canning's curious revelation which has appeared in 
no previous work. In all that my brother wrote his 
actual words have been, as far as possible, retained. 
The tribute to his memory in the first chapter on the 
Post Office was written after his decease. 












viii. AT THE POST OFFICE (Continued} 245 



INDEX 311 



SIR ROWLAND HILL (Portrait by Rajori) . . . Frontispiece 





JOSEPH PEARSON (Bust by Chantrey) .... ,,26 

SIR ROWLAND HILL (Photo by the London Stereo- 
scopic Co.) 49 




No. i ORME SQUARE . . . . . . . 148 



SIR ROWLAND HILL (Photo by Maull &> Poly blank) . 211 




SIR ROWLAND HILL ("Graphic" portrait] ... 286 





THE earliest of the postal reformer's forefathers to 
achieve fame that outlives him was Sir Rowland Hill, 
mercer, and Lord Mayor of London in 1549, a native 
of Hodnet, Shropshire, who founded a Grammar School 
at Drayton, benefited the London Blue Coat School, 
was a builder of bridges, and is mentioned by John 
Stowe. From his brother are descended the three 
Rowland Hills famous in more modern times the 
preacher, the warrior, and the author of Penny Postage. 
Some of the preacher's witticisms are still remembered, 
though they are often attributed to his brother cleric, 
Sydney Smith; Napier, in his " Peninsular War," 
speaks very highly of the warrior, who, had Wellington 
fallen at Waterloo, would have taken the Duke's place, 
and who succeeded him as Commander-in-Chief when, 
in 1828, Wellington became Prime Minister. A later 
common ancestor of the three, a landed proprietor, 
married twice, and the first wife's children were thrown 
upon the world to fight their way as best as they could, 
my paternal grandfather's great-grandfather being one 
of the dispossessed. But even the blackest cloud has 

I A 


its silver lining ; and ihe fall, by teaching the young 
people seli-he'^p, probably brought out the latent good 
stuff that was in them. At any rate, family tradition 
preserves memory of not a few men and women 
Hills, or of the stocks with which they married of 
whom their descendants have reason to be proud. 

There was, for example, John Hill, who serve* 
among "the twelve good men and true" on a certaii 
trial, was the only one of them who declined to accept 
a bribe, and, the fact becoming known, was handsomeb 
complimented by the presiding judge. Thenceforth, 
whenever the Assizes in that part of the country came 
round again, John used to be asked after as "the 
honest juror." At least two of my father's forebears, 
a Symonds and a Hill, refused to cast their political 
votes to order, and were punished for their sturdy 
independence. The one lived to see a hospital erected 
in Shrewsbury out of the large fortune, for some two 
hundred years ago of ; 30,000. which should have come 
to his wife, the testator's sister ; the other, a baker an< 
corn merchant, son to "the honest juror," saw 
supply of fuel required to bake his bread cut off b] 
the local squire, a candidate for Parliament, for whoi 
the worthy baker had dared to refuse to vote. Oven< 
then were heated by wood, which in this case cam< 
from the squire's estate. When next James Hill mad< 
the usual application, the faggots were not to be had. 
He was not discouraged. Wood, he reflected, wa< 
dear ; coal much seldomer used then than now wa< 
cheap. He mixed the two, and found the plan succeed, 
lessened the proportion of wood, and finally dispense< 
with it altogether. His example was followed by othei 


people : the demand for the squire's firewood languished, 
and the boycotted voter was presently requested to 
purchase afresh. "An instance," says Dr Birkbeck 
Hill, " of a new kind of faggot vote." 

Another son of "the honest juror" was the first 
person to grow potatoes in Kidderminster. Some two 
centuries earlier "the useful tuber" was brought to 
England ; but even in times much nearer our own, 
so slowly did information travel, that till about 1750 
the only denizen of that town who seems to have known 
of its existence was this second John Hill. When the 
seeds he sowed came up, blossomed, and turned to 
berries, these last were cooked and brought to table. 
Happily no one could eat them ; and so the finger of 
scorn was pointed at the luckless innovator. The 
plants withered unheeded ; but later, the ground being 
wanted for other crops, was dug up, when, to the 
amazement of all beholders and hearers, a plentiful 
supply of fine potatoes was revealed. 

On the spindle side also Rowland Hill's family 
could boast ancestors of whom none need feel ashamed. 
Among these was the high-spirited, well -dowered 
orphan girl who, like Clarissa Harlowe, fled from home 
to escape wedlock with the detested suitor her guardians 
sought to force upon her. But, unlike Richardson's 
pless heroine, this fugitive lived into middle age, 
aintained herself by her own handiwork spinning 
.ever sought even to recover her lost fortune, married, 
left descendants, and fatally risked her life while pre- 
paring for burial the pestilence - smitten neighbour 
whose poor remains his own craven relatives had aban- 
doned. Though she perished untimely, recollection 


of her married name was preserved to reappear in 
that of a great-grandson, Matthew Davenport Hill. 
The husband of Mrs Davenport's only daughter, 
William Lea, was a man little swayed by the supersti- 
tions of his time, as he showed when he broke through 
a mob of ignorant boors engaged in hounding into a 
pond a terrified old woman they declared to be a 
witch, strode into the water, lifted her in his arms, 
and, heedless of hostile demonstration, bore her to 
his own home to be nursed back into such strength 
and sanity as were recoverable. A son of William 
Lea, during the dreadful cholera visitation of 1832, 
played, as Provost of Haddington, a part as fearlessly 
unselfish as that of his grandmother in earlier days, 
but without losing his life, for his days were long in 
the land. His sister was Rowland Hill's mother. 

On both sides the stocks seem to have been of 
stern Puritan extraction, theologically narrow, inflexibly 
honest, terribly in earnest, of healthy life, fine physique 
nonagenarians not infrequently. John Symonds, son 
to him whose wife forfeited succession to her brother, 
Mr Millington's fortune, because both men were 
sturdily obstinate in the matter of political creed, was, 
though a layman, great at extempore prayer and 
sermon-making. When any young man came a-woo- 
ing to one of his bonnie daughters, the father would 
take the suitor to an inner sanctum, there to be tested 
as to his ability to get through the like devotional 
exercises. If the young man failed to come up to the 
requisite standard he was dismissed, and the damsel 
reserved for some more proficient rival James Hill 
being one of the latter sort. How many suitors of the 


present day would creditably emerge from that 
ordeal ? 

Through this sturdy old Puritan we claim kin- 
ship with the Somersetshire family, of whom John 
Addington Symonds was one, and therefore with the 
Stracheys ; while from other sources comes a collateral 
descent from " Hudibras " Butler, who seems to have 
endowed with some of his own genuine wit certain 
later Hills; as also a relationship with that line of 
distinguished medical men, the Mackenzies, and with 
the Rev. Morell Mackenzie, who played a hero's part 
at the long-ago wreck of the Pegasus. 

A neighbour of James Hill was a recluse, who, 
perhaps, not finding the society of a small provincial 
town so companionable as the books he loved, forbore 
" to herd with narrow foreheads," but made of James 
a congenial friend. When this man died, the task fell 
to his executors, James Hill and another, to divide his 
modest estate. Among the few bequests were two 
books to young Tom, James's son, a boy with a 
passion for reading, but possessed of few books, one 
being a much-mutilated copy of " Robinson Crusoe," 
which tantalisingly began with the thrilling words, 
"more than thirty dancing round a fire." The fellow 
executor, knowing well the reputation for uncanny 
ways with which local gossip had endowed the 
deceased, earnestly advised his colleague to destroy 
the volumes, and not permit them to sully young 
Tom's mind. "Oh, let the boy have the books," said 
James Hill, and straightway the legacy was placed 
in the youthful hands. It consisted of a " Manual of 
Geography " and Euclid's " Elements." The effect of 


their perusal was not to send the reader to perdition, 
but to call forth an innate love for mathematics, and, 
through them, a lifelong devotion to astronomy, tastes 
he was destined to pass on in undiminished ardour 
to his third son, the postal reformer. 

Thomas Wright Hill was brought up in the 
straitest-laced of Puritan sects, and he has left a 
graphic description of the mode in which, as a small 
boy of seven, he passed each Sunday. The windows 
of the house, darkened by their closed outside shutters, 
made mirrors in which he saw his melancholy little 
face reflected ; his toys were put away ; there were 
three chapel services, occupying in all some five and 
a half hours, to which he was taken, and the intervals 
between each were filled by long extempore prayers 
and sermon-reading at home, all week-day conversa- 
tion being rigidly ruled out. The sabbatical observ- 
ance commenced on Saturday night and terminated on 
Sunday evening with "a cheerful supper," as though 
literally " the evening and the morning were the first 
day" an arrangement which, coupled with the habit 
of bestowing not Christian but Hebrew names upon 
the children, gives colour to the oft - made allegation 
that our Puritan ancestors drew their inspiration from 
the Old rather than from the New Testament. The 
only portion of these Sunday theological exercises 
which the poor little fellow really understood was the 
simple Bible teaching that the tenderly-loved mother 
gave to him and to his younger brother. While as 
a young man residing in Birmingham, however, he 
passed under the influence of Priestley, and became 
one of his most devoted disciples, several of whom, at 

By permission of the Proprietors of the ^Illustrated London News." 


To face p. 7. 


the time of the disgraceful "Church and King" riots 
of 1791, volunteered to defend the learned doctor's 
house. 1 But Priestley declined all defence, and the 
volunteers retired, leaving only young Tom, who would 
not desert his beloved master's threatened dwelling. 
The Priestley family had found refuge elsewhere, but 
his disciple stayed alone in the twilight of the barred 
and shuttered house, which speedily fell a prey to 
its assailants. Our grandfather used often to tell us 
children of the events of those terrible days when 
the mob held the town at their mercy, and were 
seriously opposed only when, having destroyed so 
much property belonging to Nonconformity, they next 
turned their tireless energy towards Conformity's pos- 
sessions. His affianced wife was as courageous as he, 
for when while driving in a friend's carriage through 
Birmingham's streets some of the rioters stopped 
the horses, and bade her utter the cry " Church and 
King," she refused, and was suffered to pass on un- 
molested. Was it her bravery or her comeliness, 
or both, that won for her immunity from harm ? 

The third son of this young couple, Rowland, 
the future postal reformer, first saw the light in a 
house at Kidderminster wherein his father was born, 
which had already sheltered some generations of 
Hills, and whose garden was the scene of the potato 

1 Another volunteer was a young man named Clark, one of whose 
sons afterwards married T. W. Hill's elder daughter. An acquaint- 
ance of Clark's, politically a foe, sought to save his friend's house from 
destruction by writing upon it the shibboleth, " Church and King." 
But like Millais' Huguenot knight, Clark scorned to shelter himself 
or property under a false badge, and promptly effaced the kindly- 
intentioned inscription. 


story. The child was weakly, and, being threatened 
with spinal trouble, passed much of his infancy in 
a recumbent position. But the fragile form held a 
dauntless little soul, and the almost abnormally large 
brain behind the too pallid forehead was a very active 
one. As he lay prone, playing with the toys his 
mother suspended to a cord stretched within easy 
reach above him ; and, later, working out mental 
arithmetical problems, in which exercise he found 
delight, and to the weaving of alluring daydreams, 
he presently fell to longing for some career what 
it should be he knew not that should leave his 
country the better for his having lived in it. The 
thoughts of boys are often, the poet tells us, "long, 
long thoughts," but it is not given to every one 
to see those daydreams realised. Though what is 
boy (or girl) worth who has not at times entertained 
healthily ambitious longings for a great future ? 

As he grew stronger he presently came to help 
his father in the school the latter had established at 
Birmingham, in which his two elder brothers, aged 
fifteen and fourteen, were already at work. The 
family was far from affluent, and its young members 
were well aware that on their own exertions depended 
their future success. For them there was no royal 
road to learning or to anything else ; and even as 
children they learned to be self-reliant. From the 
age of twelve onwards, my father, indeed, was self- 
supporting. Like Chaucer's poor parson, the young 
Hill brothers learned while they taught, even some- 
times while on their way to give a lesson, as did my 
father when on a several miles long walk to teach 


an equally ignorant boy the art of Navigation ; and 
perhaps because life had to be taken so seriously, they 
valued the hardly- acquired knowledge all the more 
highly. Their father early accustomed his children to 
discuss with him and with each other the questions of 
the time a time which must always loom large in the 
history of our land. Though he mingled in the talk, 
"it was," my Uncle Matthew said, "a match of mind 
against mind, in which the rules of fair play were 
duly observed ; and we put forth our little strength 
without fear. The sword of authority was not thrown 
into the scale. . . . We were, "added the writer, "born 
to a burning hatred of tyranny." 1 And no wonder, 
for in the early years of the last century tyranny was 
a living, active force. 

If, to quote Blackstone, "punishment of unreason- 
able severity " with a view to "preventing crimes and 
amending the manners of a people" constitute a 
specific form of tyranny, the fact that in 1795, the 
year of Rowland Hill's birth, the pillory, the stocks, 
and the whipping-post were still in use sufficiently 
attests this " unreasonable severity." In March 1789, 
less than seven years before his birth, a yet more 
terrible punishment was still in force. A woman 
the last thus "judicially murdered" was burnt at the 
stake; and a writer in Notes and Queries, of 2ist 
September 1851, tells its readers that he was present 
on the occasion. Her offence was coining, and she was 
mercifully strangled before being executed. Women 
were burnt at the stake long after that awful death 
penalty was abolished in the case of the more favoured 
1 " Remains of T. W. Hill." By M. D. Hill, p. 124. 


sex. The savage cruelty of the criminal code at this 
time and later is also indicated by the fact that 
over 150 offences were punishable by death. Even 
in 1822, a date within the recollection of persons still 
living, and notwithstanding the efforts made by Sir 
Samuel Romilly and others to humanise that code, 
capital punishment was still terribly common. In that 
year, on two consecutive Monday mornings, my father, 
arriving by coach in London from Birmingham, passed 
within sight of Newgate. Outside its walls, on the 
first occasion, the horrified passengers counted nine- 
teen bodies hanging in a row ; on the second, twenty- 

During my father's childhood and youth this 
country was almost constantly engaged in war. 
Within half a mile of my grandfather's house the 
forging of gun barrels went on all but incessantly, 
the work beginning before dawn and lasting till long 
after nightfall. The scarcely - ending din of the 
hammers was varied only by the occasional rattle 
from the proof shed ; and the shocks and jars had 
disastrous effect upon my grandmother's brewings of 
beer. Meanwhile " The Great Shadow," graphically 
depicted by Sir A. Conan Doyle, was an actual dread 
that darkened our land for years. And the shadow 
of press-gang raids was a yet greater dread alike 
to the men who encountered them, sometimes to 
disappear for ever, and to the women who were 
frequently bereft of their bread-winners. It is, 
however, pleasant to remember that sometimes the 
would-be captors became the captured. A merchant 
vessel lying in quarantine in Southampton Water, 


her yellow flag duly displayed, but hanging in the 
calm weather so limply that it was hardly observable, 
was boarded by a press-gang who thought to do a 
clever thing by impressing some of the sailors. 
These, seeing what was the invaders' errand, let 
them come peaceably on deck, when the quarantine 
officer took possession of boat and gang, and 
detained both for six weeks. 

For those whose means were small a numerous 
class at that time there was scant patronage of public 
conveyances, such as they were. Thus the young 
Hill brothers had to depend on their own walking 
powers when minded to visit the world that lay beyond 
their narrow horizon. And to walking tours, often of 
great length, they were much given in holiday time, 
tours which took them to distant places of historic 
interest, of which Rowland brought back memorials 
in his sketch book. Beautiful, indeed, were the then 
green lanes of the Midlands, though here and there 
they were disfigured by the presence of some lonely 
gibbet, the chains holding its dismal " fruit" clank- 
ing mournfully in windy weather. Whenever it was 
possible, the wayfarer made a round to avoid passing 
the gruesome object. 

One part of the country, lying between Birming- 
ham and Wolverhampton, a lonely heath long since 
covered with factories and houses, known as the 
" Lie Waste," was also not pleasant to traverse, though 
the lads occasionally had to do so. A small collection 
of huts of mud-and- wattle construction sheltered some 
of our native savages for they were nothing else 
whose like has happily long been " improved off the 


face " of the land. These uncouth beings habitually 
and literally went "on all fours." Whether the atti- 
tude was assumed in consequence of the low roofs of 
their dwellings, or the outcasts chose that mode of 
progression in imitation of the animals which were 
their ordinary companions, history does not say, but 
they moved with wonderful celerity both in and out 
of doors. At sight of any passer-by they were apt 
to "rear," and then oaths, obscene language, and 
missiles of whatever sort was handy would be their 
mildest greeting, while more formidable attack was 
likely to be the lot of those who ventured too near 
their lairs. Among these people the Hill boys often 
noticed a remarkably handsome girl, as great a savage 
as the rest. 

As the three elder brothers grew well into their 
teens, much of the school government fell to their 
lot, always with the parental sanction, and ere long 
it was changed in character, and became a miniature 
republic. 1 Trial by jury for serious offences was 
instituted, the judge being my grandfather or one 
of his sons, and the jury the culprit's fellow-pupils. 
Corporal punishment, then perhaps universal in 
schools, was abolished, and the lads, being treated 
as reasonable creatures, early learned to be a self- 
respecting because a self-governing community. The 
system, which in this restricted space cannot be 
described in detail, was pre - eminently a success, 

1 "Six years have now elapsed," wrote my father in 1823, "since 
we placed a great part of the government of the school in the hands 
of the boys themselves ; and during the whole of that time the head- 
master has never once exercised his right of veto upon their 


since it turned out pupils who did it and themselves 
credit. " All the good I ever learned was learned at 
Hazel wood," I once heard say a cheery old clergy- 
man, probably one of the last surviving "boys." The 
teaching was efficiently carried on, and the develop- 
ment of individual talent was wisely encouraged, the 
pupils out of school hours being allowed to exercise 
the vocation to which each was inclined, or which, 
owing to this practice, was discovered in each. 
Thus in boyhood Follet Osier, the inventor of 
the anemometer and other scientific instruments, was 
enabled to bring to light those mechanical abilities 
which, till he exhibited their promise during his 
hours of voluntary work, were unsuspected even by 
his nearest of kin. Again, Thomas Creswick, R.A., 
found an outlet for his love of art in drawing, though, 
being a very little fellow when he began, some of 
these studies of public buildings in Birmingham 
were very funny, the perspective generally having 
the "Anglo-Saxon" peculiarities, and each edifice 
being afflicted with a "list" out of the perpendicular 
as pronounced as that of Pisa's leaning tower or 
nearly so. 

The fame of the " Hazelwood system" spread 
afar, and many of our then most distinguished fellow- 
countrymen visited the school. Among the rest, 
Bentham gave it his hearty approval ; and Captain 
Basil Hall, the writer of once popular books for boys, 
spoke of the evident existence of friendly terms 
between masters and pupils, declared the system to 
be "a curious epitome of real life," and added that 
the boys were not converted into little men, but 


remained boys, only with heads and hands fully 
employed on topics they liked. 

Visitors also came from foreign lands. Berna- 
dotte's son, Prince Oscar, afterwards first king of 
Sweden of that name, travelled to Hazel wood, 
examined the novel system, and, later, established 
at Stockholm a " Hillska Scola." From France, 
among other people, came M. Jullien, once secretary 
to Robespierre what thrilling tales of the Great 
Revolution must he not have been able to tell ! 
and afterwards a wise philanthropist and eminent 
writer on education, He sent a son to Hazelwood. 
President Jefferson, when organising the University 
of Virginia, asked for a copy of " Public Education," 
the work describing the system and the joint pro- 
duction of Rowland, who found the ideas, Matthew, 
who supplied the composition, and, as regards a few 
suggestions, of a younger brother, Arthur. Greece, 
Spain, far-off Mexico even, in course of time sent 
pupils either to Hazelwood or to Bruce Castle, 
Tottenham, to which then picturesque and some- 
what remote London suburb the school was ulti- 
mately transferred. " His Excellency, the Tripolitan 
Ambassador," wrote my father in his diary of 1823, 
"has informed us that he has sent to Tripoli for six 
young Africans ; and the Algerine Ambassador, not 
to be outdone by his piratical brother, has sent for 
a dozen from Algiers." 2 Happily, neither contingent 

1 Its full title was " Plans for the Government and Liberal 
Education of Boys in Large Numbers," and the work speedily went 
into a second edition. 

2 Algeria was not conquered by France till 1830; and until the 
beginning of the nineteenth century our shores were still liable to 


put in an appearance. In both cases the enthusiasm 
evoked seems to have been short-lived. 

An old Hazelwood pupil, Mr E. Edwards, in his 
written sketch of "Sir Rowland Hill," said of the 
school that no similar establishment "in the world, 
probably at that time, contained such an array of 
costly models, instruments, apparatus, and books. 
There was an observatory upon the top of the house 
fitted with powerful astronomical instruments. The 
best microscopes obtainable were at hand. Models 
of steam and other engines were all over the place. 
Air - pumps and electrical machines were familiar 
objects. Maps, then comparatively rare, lined the 
walls. Drawing and mathematical instruments were 
provided in profusion. Etching was taught, and a 
copper press was there for printing the pupils' efforts 
in that way. A lithographic press and stones of 
various sizes were provided, so that the young artists 
might print copies of their drawings to send to their 
admiring relatives. Finally, a complete printing press 
with ample founts of type was set up to enable 
the boys themselves to print a monthly magazine 
connected with the school and its doings." Other 
attractions were a well fittedTup carpenter's shop ; 
a band, the musicians being the pupils ; the training 
of the boys in vocal music ; a theatre in which the 

piratical raids. One such (in Norway) is introduced in Miss 
Martineau's story, " Feats on -the Fiords." The pirates, during 
hundreds of years, periodically swept the European coasts, and 
carried off people into slavery, penetrating at times even so far 
north as Iceland. What was the condition of these North African 
pirate States prior to the French conquest is told by Mr S. L. Poole 
in "The Barbery Corsairs" ("Story of the Nations" series). 


manager, elocution teacher, scene painter, etc., were 
the young Hill brothers, the costumier e their sister 
Caroline, and the actors the pupils ; the control of 
a sum of money for school purposes ; and the use 
of a metallic coinage received as payment for the 
voluntary work already mentioned, and by which 
certain privileges could be purchased. 1 

My grandfather inspired his sons and pupils with 
a longing to acquire knowledge, at the same time so 
completely winning their hearts by his good comrade- 
ship, that they readily joined him in the long and 
frequent walks of which he was fond, and in the course 
of which his walking stick was wont to serve to make 
rough drawings of problems, etc., in road or pathway. 
"His mathematical explanations," wrote another old 
pupil in the "Essays of a Birmingham Manufacturer" 
(W. L. Sargent), " were very clear ; and he looked 
at the bearings of every subject irrespective of its 
conventionalities. His definition of a straight line 
has been said to be the best in existence." 2 

1 It was a visit paid to Bruce Castle School which caused De 
Quincey, in that chapter of his " Autobiographic Sketches " entitled 
" My Brother," to write : " Different, O Rowland Hill, are the laws 
of thy establishment, for other are the echoes heard amid the ancient 
halls of Bruce. There it is possible for the timid child to be happy, 
for the child destined to an early grave to reap his brief harvest 
in peace. Wherefore were there no such asylums in those days? 
Man flourished then as now. Wherefore did he not put forth his 
power upon establishments that might cultivate happiness as well as 
knowledge." The stories of brutalities inflicted upon weakly boys in 
some of our large schools of to-day might tempt not a few parents to 
echo De Quincey 's pathetic lament, though perhaps in less archaic 

I i 2 It is as follows : "A straight line is a line in which, if any two 
points be taken, the part intercepted shall be less than any other line 
in which these points can be found." 

By permission of Messrs. Thos. De La Rue. 


To face p. 17. 


In my father's "Life," Dr Birkbeck Hill, when 
writing of his recollections of our grandfather, said 
that it seemed " as if the aged man were always seated 
in perpetual sunshine. How much of the brightness 
and warmth must have come from his own cheerful 
temperament? ... His Sunday morning breakfasts 
live in the memory like a landscape of Claude's." At 
these^ entertainments the old man would sit in his easy- 
chair, at the head of the largest table the house could 
boast, in a circle of small, adoring grandchildren, the 
intervening, severe generation being absent ; and of 
all the joyous crowd his perhaps was the youngest 
heart. There were other feasts, those of reason and 
the flow of soul, with which he also delighted his 
young descendants : stories of the long struggle in the 
revolted "American Colonies, 1 ' of the Great French 
Revolution, and of other interesting historical dramas 
which he could well remember, and equally well 

His old pupils would come long distances to see 
him ; and on one occasion several of them subscribed 
to present him with a large telescope, bearing on it 
a graven tribute of their affectionate regard. This 
greatly prized gift was in use till within a short time 
of his last illness. 

Young Rowland had a strong bent towards art, 
as he showed when, at the age of thirteen, he won the 
prize, a handsome box of water-colour paints, offered 
by the proprietor of the London School Magazine for 
"the best original landscape drawing by the youth of 
all England, under tue age of sixteen." He painted 
the scenery for the school theatre, and made many 


water-colour sketches in different parts of our ^land, 
his style much resembling that of David Cox. He 
was an admirer of Turner long before Ruskin " dis- 
covered " that great painter ; and, as his diary shows, 
marvelled at the wondrous rendering of atmospheric 
effects exhibited in his idol's pictures. Nearly all my 
father's scenery and sketches perished in a fire which 
partially burnt down Hazelwood School ; and few are 
now in existence. After the age of seventeen he 
gave up painting, being far too busy to devote time 
to art, but he remained a picture-lover to the end of 
his days. Once during the long war with France he 
had an adventure which might have proved serious. 
He was sketching Dover Castle, when a soldier came 
out of the fortress and told him to cease work. Not 
liking the man's manner, the youthful artist went on 
painting unconcernedly. Presently a file of soldiers, 
headed by a corporal, appeared, and he was peremp- 
torily ordered to withdraw. Then the reason for the 
interference was revealed : he was taken for a spy. 
My father at once laid aside his brush ; he had no 
wish to be shot. 

In 1835 Rowland Hill resigned to a younger 
brother, Arthur, 1 the head-mastership of Bruce Castle 
1 He was an ideal schoolmaster and an enthusiastic Shakespearean, 
his readings from the bard being much in the same cultured style as 
those of the late Mr Brandram. Whenever it was bruited about the 
house that " Uncle Arthur was going * to do ' Shakespeare," there 
always trooped into the room a crowd of eager nieces, nephews, and 
others, just as in a larger house members troop in when a favourite 
orator is "up." At his own request, a monetary testimonial raised 
by his old pupils to do him honour was devoted to the purchase of 
a lifeboat (called by his name) to be stationed at one of our coast 


School, and accepted the post of secretary to the 
Colonisation Commissioners for South Australia, 
whose chairman was Colonel Torrens. 1 Another 
commissioner was John Shaw Lefevre, later a famous 
speaker of the House of Commons, who, as Lord 
Eversley, lived to a patriarchal age. But the prime 
mover in the scheme for colonising this portion of 
the " Island Continent" was that public-spirited man, 
Edward Gibbon Wakefield. William IV. took much 
interest in the project, and stipulated that the chief 
city should bear the name of his consort Adelaide. 

The Commissioners were capable men, and were 
ably assisted by the South Australian Company, 
which much about the same time was started mainly 
through the exertions of Mr G. F. Angas. Among 
the many excellent rules laid down by the Com- 
missioners was one which insisted on the making of 

1 Colonel Torrens, after whom a river and a lake in South 
Australia were named, had a distinguished career. For his spirited 
defence in 1811 of the island of Anholt he was awarded a sword of 
honour. But he was much more than a soldier, however valorous 
and able. He was a writer on economics and other important 
problems of the day ; was one of the founders of the Political 
Economy Club, and of the Globe newspaper, then an advocate 
of somewhat advanced views; and interested himself in several 
philanthropic movements. His son, Sir Robert Torrens, sometime 
M.P. for Cambridge, lived for many years in South Australia, and 
was its first Premier. While there he drew up the plan of " The 
Transfer of Land by Registration," which became an Act bearing his 
name, and is one of the measures sometimes cited as proof that the 
Daughter States are in sundry ways well ahead of their Mother. In 
consequence of the good work the plan has accomplished in the 
land of its origin, it has been adopted by other colonies, and is a 
standard work on the list of Cobden Club publications. Colonel 
Torrens's eldest granddaughter married Rowland Hill's only son. 


a regular and efficient survey both of the emigrant 
ships and of the food they carried. As sailing vessels 
were then the only transports, the voyage lasted 
several months, and the comfort of the passengers 
was of no small importance. " When," said rny father 
in his diary, " defects and blemishes were brought to 
light by the accuracy of the survey, and the stipu- 
lated consequences enforced, an outcry arose as if the 
connection between promise and performance were 
an unheard-of and most unwarrantable innovation. 
After a time, however, as our practice became recog- 
nised, evasive attempts grew rare, the first expense 
being found to be the least." He often visited the 
port of departure, and witnessed the shipping off of 
the emigrants always an interesting occasion, and 
one which gave opportunities of personal supervision 
of matters. Being once at Plymouth, my mother and 
he boarded a vessel about to sail for the new colony. 
Among the passengers was a bright young Devonian, 
apparently an agriculturist ; and my father, observing 
him, said to my mother : "I feel sure that man will do 
well." The remark was overheard, but the Devonian 
made no sign. He went to Australia poor, and 
returned wealthy, bought an estate close to his birth- 
place which was in the market, and there settled. 
But before sailing hither, he bought at one of the 
Adelaide banks the finest one of several gold nuggets 
there displayed, and, armed with this, presented him- 
self at my father' s house, placed his gift in my 
mother's hand, and told how the casual remark 
made forty years before had helped to spur him on 
to success. 


The story of Rowland Hill and a mysteriously 
vanished rotatory printing press may be told 

In 1790 Mr William Nicholson devised a scheme 
for applying to ordinary type printing the already 
established process of printing calico by revolving 
cylinders. The impressions were to be taken from 
his press upon successive sheets of paper, as no means 
of producing continuous rolls had as yet been invented ; 
but the machine worked far from satisfactorily, and 
practically came to nothing. A quarter of a century 
later Mr Edward Cowper applied Nicholson's idea to 
stereotype plates bent to a cylindrical surface. But 
till the advent of " Hill's machine " (described at the 
Patent Office as "A.D. 1835, No. 6762") all plans for 
fixing movable types on a cylinder had failed. It is 
therefore incontestable that the first practical scheme 
of printing on a continuous roll of paper by revolving 
cylinders was invented and set to work by Rowland 
Hill in the year named. The machine was intended 
mainly for the rapid printing of newspapers, but the 
refusal of the Treasury to allow an arrangement by 
which the Government stamp could be affixed by 
an ingenious mechanical device as the scroll passed 
through the press a refusal withdrawn later de- 
ferred for many years the introduction of any rotatory 
printing machine. 

The apparatus was kept at my Uncle Matthew's 
chambers in Chancery Lane, and was often shown to 
members of the trade and others. Although driven 
by hand only, it threw off impressions at the rate of 
7,000 or 8,000 an hour, a much higher speed than 


that hitherto attained by any other machine. But 
from 1836 onwards my father's attention was almost 
wholly taken up with his postal reform, and it was 
only after his retirement from the Post Office in 1864 
that his mind reverted to the subject of the printing 
press. Several years before the latter date his brother 
had left London ; but of the rotatory printing machine, 
bulky and ponderous as it was, a few small odds and 
ends afterwards exhibited at the Caxton Exhibition 
in 1877 alone remained. 

In 1866 the once well-known "Walter Press" was 
first used in the Times office. Of this machine my 
father has said that " except as regards the apparatus 
for cutting and distributing the printed sheets, and 
excepting further that the * Walter Press ' (entered 
at the Patent Office as "A.D. 1866, No. 3222") is 
only adapted for printing from stereotype plates, while 
mine would not only print from stereotype plates, 
but, what is more difficult, from movable types also, 
the two machines are almost identical." He added 
that " the enormous difficulty of bringing a complex 
machine into practical use a difficulty familiar to 
every inventor has been most successfully over- 
come by Messrs Calverley and Macdonald, the 

By whom and through what agency the machine 
patented in 1835 was apparently transported from 
Chancery Lane to Printing House Square is a 
mystery which at this distant date is hardly likely 
to be made clear. 

It has always been a tradition in our family that 
the courtship between Rowland Hill and Caroline 


Pearson began when their united ages amounted to 
eleven years only, the boy being by twelve months the 
elder. The families on both sides lived at the time 
at Wolverhampton, and the first kiss is said to have 
been exchanged inside a large culvert which crossed 
beneath the Tettenhall Road in the neighbourhood 
of the Hills' house, and served to conduct a tiny 
rivulet, apt in wet weather to become a swollen 
stream, into its chosen channel on the other side the 
way. The boy delighted to creep within this shelter 
often dry in summer and listen to the rumbling over- 
head of the passing vehicles. Noisy, ponderous wains 
some of these were, with wheels of great width and 
strength, and other timbers in like proportion ; but 
to the small listener the noisier the more enjoyable. 
These wains have long vanished from the roads they 
helped to wear out, the railway goods trains having 
superseded them, although of late years the heavy 
traction engines, often drawing large trucks after them, 
seem likely to occupy the place filled by their forgotten 
predecessors. Little Rowland naturally wished to 
share the enchanting treat with " Car," as he gener- 
ally called his new friend, and hand in hand the " wee 
things " set off one day to the Tettenhall Road. 
Many years later the elderly husband made a senti- 
mental journey to the spot, and was amazed at the 
culvert's apparent shrinkage in size. Surely, a most 
prosaic spot for the beginning of a courtship ! 

The father of this little girl was Joseph Pearson, 
a man held in such high esteem by his fellow- 
citizens that after the passing of the great Reform 
Bill in 1832 he was asked to become one of 


Wolverhampton's first two members. 1 He was, how- 
ever, too old for the wear and tear of Parliamentary 
life, though when the General Election came on he 
threw himself with all his accustomed zeal into the 
struggle, and was, as a consequence, presently laid 
up with a temporary ailment, which caused one of 
his political foes to declare that " If Mr Pearson's 
gout would only last three weeks longer we might 
get our man in." These words coming to Mr 
Pearson's ears, he rose from his sick-bed, gout or 
no gout, and plunged afresh into the fray, with so 
much energy that "we" did not "get our man in," 
but the other side did. 

1 The candidates ultimately chosen were the Hon. Charles 
Pelham Villiers, who represented the constituency for sixty-three 
years from January 1835 till his death in January 1898 and 
Mr Thomas Thornley of Liverpool. Both men, as we shall see, 
served on that select Committee on Postage which sat to enquire as 
to the merits of my father's plan of postal reform, and helped to 
cause its adoption. The two men were long known locally as 
"Mr Pearson's members." Mr Villiers will be remembered as the 
man who, for several years in succession, brought in an Annual 
Motion on behalf of Free Trade, and as being for a longer while, 
perhaps, than any other Parliamentarian, " the Father of the House " ; 
but the fact is not so well known that he came near to not repre- 
senting Wolverhampton at all. The election agent who " discovered " 
him in London described him in a letter to my grandfather (who was 
chairman of the local Liberal Association) as "a young gentleman 
named Villiers, a thorough free-trader, of good connexions, and 
good address." Thus his advent was eagerly looked for. Always 
given to procrastination, the candidate, however, was so long in 
making his appearance or communicating with the constituents, 
that his place was about to be taken by a more energetic person 
who went so far as to issue his address and begin his canvass. Only 
just in time for nomination did Mr Villiers drive into Wolver- 
Jiampton, Whereupon Mr Throckmorton gracefully retired. 


" He was," once said a many years old friend, 
" conspicuous for his breadth of mind, kindness of 
heart, and public spirit." He hated the cruel sports 
common in his time, and sought unceasingly to put 
them down. One day, while passing the local bull- 
ring, he saw a crowd of rough miners and others 
preparing to bait a bull. He at once strode into 
their midst, liberated the animal, pulled up or broke 
off the stake, and carried it away on his shoulder. 
Was it his pluck, or his widespread popularity 
that won the forbearance of the semi-savage by- 
standers? At any rate, not a hostile finger was 
laid upon him. Meanwhile, he remembered that if 
brutalising pastimes are put down, it is but right that 
better things should be set in their place. Thus the 
local Mechanics' Institute, British Schools, Dispensary, 
and other beneficent undertakings, including rational 
sports for every class, owed their origin chiefly to 
him ; and, aided by his friend John Mander, and 
by the Rev. John Carter, a poor, hard - working 
Catholic priest, he founded the Wolverhampton Free 

Joseph Pearson was one of the most hospitable 
and genial of men, and, for his time, a person of 
some culture. He detested cliques and coteries, those 
paralysing products of small provincial towns, and 
would have naught to do with them. Men of great 
variety of views met round his dinner-table, and 
whenever it seemed necessary he would preface the 
repast with the request that theology and politics 
should be avoided. With his Catholic neighbours 
Staffordshire was a stronghold of the " Old Religion " 


the sturdy Nonconformist was on the happiest of 
terms, and to listen to the conversation of the often 
well - travelled, well - educated priests was to him a 
never-failing pleasure. For Catholic Emancipation 
he strove heartily and long. With all sects he was 
friendly, but chiefly his heart went out to those who 
in any way had suffered for their faith. One effect 
of this then not too common breadth of view was 
seen when, after his death, men of all denominations 
followed him to his grave, and the handsomest of the 
several journalistic tributes to his memory appeared 
in the columns of his inveterate political and theo- 
logical opponent, the local Tory paper. A ward in 
the Hospital and a street were called after the 
whilom "king of Wolverhampton." 1 

He had three daughters, of whom my mother 
was the eldest. His wife died young, and before 
her sixteenth year Caroline became mistress of his 
house, and thus acquired the ease of manner and 
knowledge of social duties which made of her the 
charming hostess who, in later years, presided over 
her husband's London house. She will make a brief 
reappearance in other pages of this work. 

Joseph Pearson's youngest daughter, Clara, was a 
beautiful girl, a frequent " toast " at social gatherings 
in the three counties of Stafford, Warwick, and 
Worcester for toasts in honour of reigning belles 
were still drunk at festivities in provincial Assembly 
Rooms and elsewhere, what time the nineteenth 
century was in its teens. When very young she 

1 He died in July 1838, in the midst of the agitation for the 
postal reform, in which he took an enthusiastic interest. 

From a Photograph by Messrs. Whiteley & Co. 

Ihe bust was the u-or7c of Sir Franc's Chantry. 


To face p. 26. 


became engaged to her cousin, Lieutenant (after- 
wards Captain) Alexander Pearson, R.N., who at 
the time of Napoleon's sojourn at St Helena was 
stationed there, being attached to the man-of-war 
commanded by Admiral Plampin. One gift which 
Lieutenant Pearson gave my aunt she kept to the end 
of her life a lock of Napoleon's hair. Lieutenant 
Pearson often saw the ex- Emperor, and, many years 
after, described him to us children how, for instance, 
he would stand, silent and with folded arms, gazing 
long and fixedly seaward as though waiting for the 
rescue which never came. The lieutenant was one 
of the several young naval officers who worshipped 
at the shrine of the somewhat hoydenish Miss 
" Betsy " Balcombe, who comes into most stories of 
St. Helena of that time. Wholly unabashed by 
consideration of the illustrious captive's former 
greatness, she made of him a playmate perhaps a 
willing one, for life must have been terribly dreary 
to one whose occupation, like that of Othello, was 
gone. Occasionally she shocked her hearers by 
addressing the ex-Emperor as " Boney," though it 
is possible that the appellation so frequently heard 
in the mouths of his British enemies had no osseous 
association in his own ears, but was accepted as an 
endearing diminutive. One day, in the presence of 
several witnesses, our cousin being among them, 
she possessed herself of a sword, flourished it play- 
fully before her, hemmed Napoleon into a corner, 
and, holding the blade above his head, laughingly 
exclaimed : " Main tenant j'ai vaincu le vanqueur du 
monde ! " But there was no answering laugh ; the 


superstitious Corsican turned pale, made some short, 
unintelligible reply, left the room, and was depressed 
and taciturn for the rest of the day. It was surmised 
that he took the somewhat tactless jest for an omen 
that a chief who had been beaten by a woman 
would never again lead an army of men. 

During Rowland Hill's prime, and until the final 
breakdown of his health, our house was a favourite 
haunt of the more intimate of his many clever friends. 
Scientific, medical, legal, artistic, literary, and other 
prominent men met, exchanged views, indulged in 
deep talk, bandied repartee, and told good stories 
at breakfast and dinner parties ; the economists 
mustering in force, and plainly testifying by their 
bearing and conversation that, whatever ignorant 
people may say of the science they never study, its 
professors are often the very reverse of dismal. If 
Dr Southwood Smith 1 and Mr (later Sir Edwin) 
Chadwick's talk at times ran gruesomely on details 
of "intramural interment," the former, at least, had 
much quaint humour, and was deservedly popular ; 
while Dr Neil Arnott, whose chief hobbies were 
fabled to be those sadly prosaic things, stoves, water- 
beds, and ventilation, but who was actually a dis- 
tinguished physician, natural philosopher, author, and 
traveller, was even, when long past sixty, one of the 
gayest and youngest of our guests : a mimic, but 
never an ill-natured one, a spinner of amusing yarns, 
and frankly idolised by the juvenile members of the 
family whose minds he mercifully never attempted 
to improve. 

1 Grandfather to Miss Octavia Hill. 


Charles Wentworth Dilke, 1 founder of the 
Athenczum newspaper, a famous journalist and 
influential man of letters, at whose house one met 
every writer, to say nothing of other men and 
women, worth knowing, was another charming old 
man, to listen to whose talk was a liberal educa- 
tion. Did we walk with him on Hampstead Heath, 
where once he had a country house, he became an 
animated guide-book guiltless of a dull page, telling 
us of older times than our own, and of dead and 
gone worthies who had been guests at " Went worth 
House." On this much worn, initial-carven, wooden 
seat used often to sit Keats listening to the nightin- 
gales, and, maybe, thinking of Fanny Brawne. At 
another spot the weakly-framed poet had soundly 
thrashed a British rough who was beating his wife. 
Across yonder footpath used to come from Highgate 
"the archangel a little damaged," as Charles Lamb 
called Coleridge. At that road corner, in a previous 
century, were wont to gather the visitors returning 
from the Well Walk "pump-room," chalybeate spring, 
and promenade, till they were in sufficient force to be 
safe from highwaymen or footpads who frequented 
the then lonely road to London. In a yet earlier 
century certain gallant Spanish gentlemen attached 
to Philip and Mary's court, rescued some English 
ladies from molestation by English ruffians ; and 
memorials of this episode live in the still traceable 
circle of trees whose predecessors were planted by 

1 His son was one of the Commissioners who aided Prince 
Albert to inaugurate the Great Exhibition of 1851, and was created 
a baronet in recognition of his services. 


the grateful ladies, and in the name of the once quaint 
old hostelry hard by, and of the road known as the 

Another wanderer about Hampstead's hills and 
dales was the great Thackeray, who was often 
accompanied by some of the family of Mr Crowe, 
a former editor of the Daily News, and father to 
Eyre Crowe, R.A., and Sir Joseph Archer Crowe. 
These wanderings seem to have suggested a few of 
the names bestowed by Thackeray on the characters 
in his novels, such as "Jack Belsize " and " Lord 
Highgate," while the title of " Marquess of Steyne " 
is reminiscent of another Thackerayan haunt " Dr" 
Brighton. Hampstead still better knew Dickens, 
who is mentioned later in these pages. The two 
writers are often called rivals ; yet novels and men 
were wholly unlike. Each was a peerless genius in 
his own line, and each adorned any company in 
which he moved. Yet, while Dickens was the life 
and soul of every circle, Thackeray perhaps the 
only male novelist who could draw a woman absolutely 
true to life * always struck us as rather silent and 
self-absorbed, like one who is studying the people 
around him with a view to their reproduction in 
as yet unwritten pages. His six feet of height 
and proportionate breadth, his wealth of grey hair, 
and the spectacles he was said never to be seen 
without, made of him a notable figure everywhere. 
Yet, however outwardly awe-inspiring, he was the 

1 What other man ever depicted a Becky Sharpe, a Beatrix 
Esmond, a Mrs Bute Crawley, or a Lady Kew to say nothing 
of minor characters? 


kindliest of satirists, the truest of friends, and has 
been fitly described as "the man who had the heart 
of a woman." At the Athenaeum Club he was often 
seen writing by the hour together in some quiet 
corner, evidently unconscious of his surroundings, at 
times enjoying a voiceless laugh, or again, perhaps 
when telling of Colonel Newcome's death, with " a 
moisture upon his cheek which was not dew." 

Another literary friend we had many was 
William Henry Wills, also mentioned later : a kind 
friend to struggling authors, who did not a little to 
start Miss Mulock on her career as authoress, and 
who made her known to us. He once told us a 
curious story about an old uncle with whom as a 
lad he used to stay in the days before the invasion 
of the west country by railways with their tendency 
to modernisation of out-of-the-way places. This 
ancient man lived in a large ancestral mansion, and 
literally "dined in hall" with his entire household. 
There was a sanded floor formerly, no doubt, rush- 
strewn and the family and their "retainers" sat 
down together at a very long table to the midday 
repast, the servants taking their place literally " below 
the salt," which was represented by a large bowl filled 
with that necessary concomitant. In how many other 
country houses did this mediaeval custom last into the 
first third of the nineteenth century ? 2 Mrs Wills 
only sister to the Chambers brothers, William and 
Robert, who, together with our other publisher friend, 

1 " Thackeray's London." By W. H. Rideing. 

2 Less than half a century before the time described by Mr 
Wills, the mother of Sir Humphrey Davy left the fact on record 


Charles Knight, did so much to cheapen the cost 
and in every way to raise the tone of literature 
was, in addition to possessing great charm of manner, 
an admirable amateur actress, and an unrivalled singer 
of Scottish songs. 

Hampstead, midway in the nineteenth century, 
was still a picturesque little town, possessed of several 
stately old houses one known as Sir Harry Vane's 
whose gardens were in some cases entered through 
tall, wide, iron gates of elaborate design which now 
would be accounted priceless. It was still the resort of 
artists, many of whom visited the pleasant house of 
Edwin Wilkins Field, conspicuous among the public- 
spirited men who rescued from the builder-fiend the 
Heath, and made of it a London " lung " and a joy for 
ever ; himself a lawyer, the inspirer of the Limited 
Liability Act, and an accomplished amateur water- 
colour painter. His first wife was a niece of Rogers, 
the banker -poet, famous for his breakfast parties 
and table talk. At Mr Field's house we came first 
to know Clarkson Stanfield, R.A., the famous sea- 
scape painter, and his family, who were musical as well 
as artistic, and gave delightful parties. It was said 
that Stanfield was familiar with the build and rig of a 
ship down to its minutest detail, because he and his 
lifelong friend and fellow Royal Academician, David 
Roberts, ran away from school together to sea at a 
time when life on the ocean wave seemed to most 
that in Penzance, a town of 2,000 inhabitants, there were but 
one cart, one carpet, no such thing as a silver fork, no merchandise 
brought to the place save that carried by pack-horses, and every 
one who travelled went on horseback. On this state of things 
Palmer's mail coaches had a most rousing effect. 


boys the ideal existence. To the last, Stanfield 
looked like an old sea-dog, and was bluff, hearty 
and genial. Hampstead still remembers him with 
pride ; and " Stanfield House," wherein the first 
really good local Free Library was sheltered, is so 
called because for nearly twenty years it was his 

At the Fields' house, among other celebrities, 
artistic, literary and legal, we also met Turner ; 
and it was to " Squire's Mount," and at a crowded 
evening party there that a characteristic anecdote of 
this eccentric, gifted painter belongs. The taciturn, 
gloomy-looking guest had taken an early farewell of 
host and hostess, and disappeared, only to return some 
minutes later, wonderfully and fearfully apparelled, 
and silently commence a search about the drawing- 
room. Suddenly he seemed to recollect, approached 
a sofa on which sat three handsomely-attired ladies, 
whose indignant countenances were a sight for gods 
and men when the abruptly-mannered artist called on 
them to rise. He then half dived beneath the seat, drew 
forth a dreadfully shabby umbrella of the "Gamp" 
species, and, taking no more notice of the irate three 
than if they had been so many chairs, withdrew 
this time for good. Turner had a hearty contempt 
for the Claude worship, and was resolved to expose its 
hollowness. He bequeathed to the nation two of his 
finest oil paintings on condition that they were placed 
in the Trafalgar Square Gallery beside two of Claude's 
which already hung there, and to this day act as foils. 
A custodian of the Gallery once told me that he was 

present when Turner visited the room in which were 



the two Claudes, took a foot-rule from his pocket 
and measured their frames, doubtless in order that 
his own should be of like dimensions. 

Other artists whom we knew were Mulready, 
Cooke as famous for his splendid collection of old 
Venetian glass as for his pictures Creswick and 
Elmore ; but much as Rowland Hill loved art, the 
men of science, such as Airy, the Astronomer Royal ; 
Smyth, the " Astronomical Admiral " ; Wheatstone, 
Lyell ; Graham, the Master of the Mint ; Sabine, the 
Herschels, and others were to him the most congenial 
company. After them were counted in his regard the 
medical men, philosophers and economists, such as 
Harley, Coulson, Fergusson, the Clarkes, Sir Henry 
Thompson the last to die of his old friends and 
Bentham, Robert Owen, James and John Stuart Mill 
these last four being among the earliest great 
men he knew, and counting in some ways as his 

Of his literary friends no two held a higher place 
in his esteem than Maria Edgeworth and Harriet 
Martineau. Of the latter and of her able, untiring 
help in promoting the cause of Penny Postage, mention 
will appear later. The former, my father, and his 
brother Arthur, as young men, visited at her Irish 
home, making the pilgrimage thither which Scott and 
many other literary adorers had made or were destined 
to make, one of the most interesting being that of Mrs 
Richmond Ritchie, Thackeray's daughter, of which 
she tells us in her editorial preface to a recent edition 
of " Castle Rackrent." The two brothers had looked 
forward to meet a charming woman, but she exceeded 


their expectations, and the visit remained in the 
memory of both as a red-letter day. 1 

Among literary men, besides those already men- 
tioned, or to be named later, were Leigh Hunt, De 
Quincey who when under the influence of opium 
did the strangest things, being one day discovered by 
my father and a friend hiding in some East End slum 
under the wholly erroneous impression that " enemies " 
were seeking to molest him Sir John Bowring, Dr 
Roget, author of " The Thesaurus," and the King- 
lakes. " Eothen," as the writer of that once famous 
book of travels and of " The Invasion of the Crimea," 
was habitually called by his friends, was a delightful 
talker ; and his brother, the doctor, was equally 
gifted, if less fluent, while his sister was declared by 
Thackeray to be the cleverest woman he ever met. 

Dr Roget was a most cultivated man, with the 
exquisite polish and stately bearing of that now wholly 
extinct species, the gentlemen of the old school. He 
was one of the many tourists from England who, 
happening to be in France after the break-up of the 
short-lived Peace of Amiens, were detained in that 
:ountry by Napoleon. Though a foreigner, Dr Roget 
lad lived so long in England, and, as his book 
>roves, knew our language so well, that he could 
tsily have passed for a native of these isles ; 
and thus readily fell a victim to the Corsican's 

1 When Miss Edgeworth's father in 1804 wrote the preface to her 
"Popular Tales," he quoted Burke as saying that in the United 
Kingdom one person in every hundred could read, and added that 
he hoped his daughter's works would attract the attention of a good 
many "thousands." Millions of readers were probably undreamed 
of, The schoolmaster has made some progress since those days. 


unjustifiable action. Happily for himself, Dr Roget 
remembered that Napoleon had recently annexed 
Geneva to France ; and he therefore, as a Genevese, 
protested against his detention on the ground that the 
annexation had made of him a French subject. The 
plea was allowed ; he returned to England, and finally 
settled here ; but the friend who had accompanied 
him on the tour, together with the many other 
detenus, remained in France for several years. 

Political friends were also numerous, some of 
whom will be mentioned in later pages. Of others., 
our most frequent visitors were the brilliant talker 
Roebuck, once known as " Dog Tear 'Em" of the 
House of Commons ; the two Forsters, father and 
son, who, in turn and for many years, represented 
Berwick-upon-Tweed ; J. B. Smith (Stockport) ; and 
Benjamin Smith (Norwich), at whose house we met 
some of the arctic explorers of the mid-nineteenth 
century, congenial friends of a descendant of the 
discoverer of Smith's Sound, and with whose clever 
daughters, Madame Bodichon being the eldest, we of 
the younger generation were intimate. At one time 
we saw a good deal also of Sir Benjamin Hawes, who, 
when appointed Under- Secretary to the Colonies in 
Lord John Russell's Administration of 1846, said to 
my parents : " Heaven help the Colonies, for I know 
nothing at all about them ! " an ignorance shared by 
many other people in those days of seldom distant 

My father's legal friends included Denman, Wilde, 
Mellor, Manning, Brougham, and others ; and racy 
was the talk when some of these gathered round " the 


mahogany tree," for the extremely small jokes which 
to-day produce " roars of laughter " in Court were then 
little in favour, or failed to reach the honour of 
reproduction in print. 

Quite as interesting as any of the other people we 
mingled with were the foreign political exiles who 
became honoured guests in many households ; and 
some of these terrible revolutionists were in reality the 
mildest mannered and most estimable of men. Herr 
Jansa, the great violinist, was paying a visit to this 
country in 1849, and out of pure kindness of heart 
volunteered to play at a concert at Willis's rooms got 
up for the benefit of the many Hungarian refugees 
recently landed here. For this " crime " the then 
young Emperor Francis Joseph caused the old man 
to be banished ; though what was Austria's loss was 
Britain's gain, as he spent some years among us 
respected and beloved by all who knew him. We 
met him oftenest at the house of Sir Joshua Walmsley, 
where, as Miss Walmsley was an accomplished pianist, 
very enjoyable musical parties were given. The 
Hungarian refugees, several of whom were wonderful 
musicians, were long with us ; and some, like Dr 
Zerffi, remained here altogether. The Italian exiles, 
Mazzini, Rufini, Gallenga, Panizzi afterwards Sir 
Antonio, Principal Librarian at the British Museum, 
and planner of the Reading Room there and others 
came to speak and write English better than many 
English people. Poerio, Settembrini, and other 
victims of King " Bomba " whose sufferings inspired 
Gladstone to write his famous " Two Letters " were 
not here long ; Garibaldi was an infrequent bird of 


passage, as was also Kossuth. Kinkel, the German 
journalist, a man of fine presence, had been sentenced 
to lifelong incarceration at Spandau after the Berlin 
massacre from which Dr Oswald and his sister with 
difficulty escaped but cleverly broke prison and took 
refuge in England ; Louis Blanc, historian and most 
diminutive of men, made his home for some years 
among us ; and there were many more. Quite a 
variety of languages was heard in the London drawing- 
rooms of that time, conversation was anything but 
commonplace ; and what thrillingly interesting days 
those were ! 

The story of my father's connection with the 
London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, and of 
that portion of his life which followed his retirement 
from the Post Office, will be alluded to later in 
this work. 

As it is well not to overburden the narrative with 
notes, those of mere reference to volume and page 
of Dr Hill's "Life" of my father are generally 
omitted from the present story ; though if verification 
of statements made be required, the index to my 
cousin's book should render the task easy, at least 
as regards all matter taken from that " Life." 



" Postage is one of the worst of our taxes. Few taxes, if any, 
have so injurious a tendency as the tax upon the communication 
by letters. I cannot doubt that a taxation upon communication by 
letters must bear heavily upon commerce ; it is, in fact, taxing the 
conversation of people who live at a distance from each other. The 
communication of letters by persons living at a distance is the same 
as a communication by word of mouth between persons living in the 
same town. You might as well tax words spoken upon the Royal 
Exchange as the communications of various persons living in 
Manchester, Liverpool, and London." Lord ASHBURTON, a con- 
servative peer. 

" We build National Galleries, and furnish them with pictures ; 
we propose to create public walks for the air and health and exercise 
of the community at the general cost of the country. I do not think 
that either of these, useful and valuable as they are to the community, 
and fit as they are for Government to sanction, are more conducive 
to the moral and social advancement of the community than the 
facility of intercourse by post." SAMUEL JONES LOYD (Lord 
OVERSTONE), banker and financier. 

" It is commercial suicide to restrict the free transmission of 
letters." (Sir) WILLIAM BROWN, a Liverpool merchant. 

" We are cut off from our relatives by the high rates of postage." 
G. HENSON, a working hosier of Nottingham. 

IN a short sketch of the postal reform written by my 
brother, 1 in the year of the late Queen's first jubilee 

1 "The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago." By Pearson Hill. 
Cassell & Co. (1887). 



which was also the jubilee of the publication of our 
father's " Post Office Reform," the pamphlet that 
swept away the old system the following passage 
from Miss Martineau's " History of the Thirty Years' 
Peace, 1815-1845" is quoted with excellent effect. 
From a novel point of view, and in somewhat startling 
colours, it presents us with a picture of the state of 
things which, under that old system, existed in our 
country through four-tenths (less one year) of the 
nineteenth century, and is therefore within the 
recollection of people still living. 

We look back now, Miss Martineau says, 1 with a 
sort of amazed compassion to the old crusading days 
when warrior husbands and their wives, grey-headed 
parents and their brave sons parted, with the know- 
ledge that it must be months or years before they 
could hear even of one another's existence. We 
wonder how they bore the depth of silence, and we 
feel the same now about the families of polar 
voyagers; 2 but till the commencement of Her 
Majesty's reign it did not occur to many of us how 
like to this was the fate of the largest classes in our 
own country. The fact is that there was no full and 
free epistolary intercourse in the country except for 
those who, like Members of Parliament, had the 
command of franks. There were few families in the 
wide middle class who did not feel the cost of 

1 As the passage is slightly condensed, quotation marks are not 
employed. The words generally whole sentences sometimes are, 
however, Miss Martineau's own. 

2 Written while yet the fate of the Franklin Expedition was an 
unsolved mystery. 


postage to be a heavy item in their expenditure ; 
and if the young people sent letters home only once 
a fortnight, the amount at the year's end was a rather 
serious matter. But it was the vast multitude of the 
poorer classes who suffered, like the crusading families 
of old, and the geographical discoverers of all time. 
When the young people went out into the world 
the separation between them and those left behind 
was almost like that of death. The hundreds of 
thousands of apprentices, of shopmen, of governesses, 
of domestic servants, were cut off from family 
relations as effectually as if seas or deserts divided 
them (vol. iv. p. 1 1 ). 

Yet it was not so much the number of miles of 
severance or the paucity of means of communication 
that raised walls of oblivion between members of 
those poorer families which form the large majority 
of our race; for by 1840 the year when the postal 
reform was established communication between even 
distant places was becoming comparatively easy. 
Separation was mainly caused by dear postal charges. 
Fourpence carried a letter 1 5 miles only ; the 
average rate, even taking into account the many 
penny letters circulated by the local town-posts 
which, it is said, numbered some two hundred, the 
greater part being very profitable undertakings was 
6-^d. 1 Mr Brewin of Cirencester, in his evidence 

1 The two sorts of post were kept quite distinct, the business of 
the general post and that of the local posts being carried on in separate 
buildings and by different staffs. It was not till the postal reform 
had been established some years that Rowland Hill was able to 
persuade the authorities of the wisdom of that amalgamation of the 
two which formed an important feature of his plan. 


before the Parliamentary Committee of 1838 (Third 
Report), put the case with startling effect when he 
said : " Sixpence is a third of a poor man's daily 
income. If a gentleman whose fortune is a thousand 
a year, or 3 a day, had to pay one-third of his daily 
income a sovereign for a letter, how often would 
he write letters of friendship ? " 

But Mr Brewin's illustration, admirable as it is, 
did not cover the entire case. And, first, it is worth 
pointing out that the " poor man's daily income " was 
not only actually smaller, but, generally speaking, it 
had also smaller purchasing power in the 'thirties than 
it came to have later in the century when freer trade 
and lighter taxation prevailed. The real hardship, 
however, was that too often the man " whose fortune 
is a thousand a year" and sometimes much more 
was, unlike his poorer brother on is. 6d. a day, 
exempt altogether from postal charges. 

For the franking system is a hoary iniquity. It 
dates back considerably more than two hundred years. 
To such an extent was the practice, legally or illegally, 
carried, that, as Mr Joyce, in his " History of the 
Post Office," tells us : " In Great Britain alone the 
postage represented by the franked letters, excluding 
those which were, or which purported to be, 'On His 
Majesty's Service,' amounted in 1716 to what was, 
for that time relatively to the total Post Office 
revenue, the enormous sum of ,17,500 a year" 
(p. 142). By 1838 the number of franked missives 
was some 7,000,000 a year. Of these, rather less 
that 5,000,000 were "double" letters, about 2,000,000 
eight-fold letters, and some 77,000 thirteen-fold letters, 


free carriage of which caused a loss to the revenue 
during the twelvemonths of about ; 1,065,000. 

The franking privilege which enabled its pos- 
sessor to write his name outside a letter, thereby 
rendering it exempt from postal charge was in 
vogue long before it received formal recognition by 
Parliament, and is indeed said to have been given 
by way of bribe to the Commons what time the Post 
Office became a Crown monopoly. The first intention 
was that franking should be enjoyed only by Members 
during each session ; but later it was practised in and 
out of session. When the measure came before the 
House, a few Members condemned it as "shabby," 
"a poor mendicant proviso," etc. But the Bill was 
passed. The Upper House rejected it. Then the 
Commons, with a knowledge of human nature credit- 
able to their understanding if to nothing else, inserted 
a clause providing that the Lords' letters should also 
be franked ; whereupon the Bill became an Act. 

The old system worked with great tenderness 
towards the " haves," and with corresponding harsh- 
ness towards the "have nots." It enabled some 
members of the favoured classes to send by post free 
of charge such things as fifteen couples of hounds, two 
maid servants, a cow, two bales of stockings, a deal 
case containing flitches "of bacon, a huge feather-bed, 
and other bulky products, animate and inanimate. 
" The ' Ambassador's bag,' " said Mr Roebuck one 
night in the House of Commons, "was often unduly 
weighted. Coats, lace, boots, and other articles were 
sent by it ; even a pianoforte, and a horse ! " 
1 " Hansard," cxlvi. 189. 


On the other hand, the unfavoured many were 
heavily taxed for the transmission of missives often 
smaller, easier of carriage, and lighter of weight ; 
and were so taxed to make up for the immunity 
enjoyed by the favoured few, since the revenue, at 
all costs, must be maintained. Thus to Rowland 
Hill's parents, and to many thousands more, in those 
days of slender income and heavy taxation, the post- 
man's knock was a sound of dread. The accepted 
letter might prove to be a worthless circular or other 
useless sheet, on which the too-trusting recipient had 
thrown away the money needed for necessary things 
whose purchase must be deferred. 

Incredibly high the postal rates sometimes were. 
A packet weighing 32 oz. was once sent from Deal 
to London. The postage was over 6, being, as 
Rowland Hill's informant remarked, four times as 
much as the charge for an inside place by the coach. 1 
Again, a parcel of official papers, small enough to 
slip inside an ordinary pocket, was sent from Dublin 
to another Irish town addressed to Sir John 
Burgogne. By mistake it was charged as a letter 
instead of as a parcel, and cost n\ For that 
amount the whole mail-coach plying between the 
two towns, with places for seven passengers and 
their luggage, might have been hired. Extreme 
cases these perhaps, but that they could and did 

1 Travelling as well as postage has cheapened. A fourth part of 
6 is 305. the price of each " inside place." To-day a first-class 
railway return ticket between Deal and London costs less than 
half 303. 


happen argued something rotten in the state of 
the old system. 

The peers of the realm and the Members of 
Parliament could not only frank their own letters, 
but those also of their friends, who, perhaps, in nine 
cases out of ten could well afford to do without such 
help. The number of franks which privileged people 
could write was limited by law, 1 but was frequently 
exceeded if a donor hated to say " No," or found 
that compliance with requests enhanced his popularity, 
or was to his advantage. Members of Parliament 
sometimes signed franks by the packet, and gave 
them to constituents and friends. It was an easy, 
inexpensive way of making a present, or of practising 
a little bribery and corruption. The chief offenders 
were said to be the banker Members, who, in one 
day (of 1794), sent 103,000 franked letters through 
the London Post Office alone. No wonder a 
" banker's frank " came to be a byword. Franks 
were also sometimes given to servants instead of, 
or to eke out, their wages ; and the servants, being 
then as a rule illiterate, sold the franks again. 

Forgery of franks was extensively practised, since 
to imitate a man's writing is not difficult. Mr Joyce 
tells us that, under the old system, the proportion of 
counterfeit to genuine franks varied from half to 
three-quarters of the entire number. Why forgery 
should be resorted to is easy to understand. The 
/^privileged nursed a natural grudge against the 
privileged, and saw no harm in occasionally enjoying 
a like immunity from postal charges. Prosecutions 

1 Fourteen franks a day was the number each M.P. could issue. 


availed little as deterrents. Even the fate of the 
Rev. Dr Dodd, hanged at Tyburn in 1771 for the 
offence, could not check the practice. 

The strictness of the rules against forging the 
frank on a letter, so long a capital offence, contrasted 
strangely with the extraordinary laxity of those 
relating to the franking of newspapers. To pass 
freely through the post, a newspaper, like a letter, 
had to be franked by a peer or a Member of Parlia- 
ment. But no pretence was ever made that the 
signatures were genuine ; and not only was anybody 
at liberty to write the name of peer or Member, but 
the publishers themselves were accustomed to issue 
the newspapers with their customer's name and 
address, and the franking signature already printed 
on each cover! Indeed, were this useless form to 
be disregarded, the paper was counted as an unpaid 
letter, and became liable to a charge of perhaps 
several shillings. 

The cost of conveying newspapers by post was 
practically covered by the duty stamp. Yet "No 
newspaper could be posted in any provincial town 
for delivery within the same, nor anywhere within 
the London District (a circle of 12 miles radius 
from the General Post Office) for delivery within 
the same circle, unless a postage of id., in 
addition to the impressed newspaper stamp, were 
paid upon it a regulation which, however, was 
constantly evaded by large numbers of newspapers 
intended for delivery in London being sent by 
newsagents down the river to be posted at 
Gravesend, the Post Office then having the trouble 


of bringing them back, and of delivering them with- 
out charge." 1 

The newspaper duty at its lowest charge was 
id., and at its highest 4d., and varied with the 
varying burden of taxation. Thus during the long 
period of George III.'s almost incessant wars it 
rose from the lower to the higher figure. Before a 
word could be printed on any newspaper the blank 
sheet had to be taken to the Stamp Office to 
receive the impress of the duty stamp, and there- 
fore prepayment of newspaper postage was secured. 
It may be that when the stamp duty rose to 3d. 
and 4d., the official conscience was satisfied that 
sufficient payment had been made ; and thus the 
franking signature became an unnecessary survival, 
a mere process of lily-painting and refined gold-gild- 
ing, which at some future time might be quietly got 
rid of. If so, the reason becomes evident why the 
forgery of franks on newspapers was viewed with 
leniency, the authorities having, by means of the 
stamp, secured their "pound of flesh." But no duty 
stamp was ever impressed on letters which were 
treated altogether differently, prepayment in their 
case being, if not actually out of the question, so 
rare as to be practically non-existent. 

The duty on newspapers was an odious "tax on 
knowledge," and rendered a cheap Press impossible. 
Only the well-to-do could indulge in the luxury of 
a daily paper ; and recollection of childish days brings 
back a vision of the sheet passing through a succession 
of households till its contents had become "ancient 
1 " The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago," p. 6. 


history," and it ended its existence in tatters. The 
repeal of the stamp duty and of that other "tax 
unwise," the paper duty, changed all this, and gave 
rise to the penny and halfpenny Press of modern 
times and the cheap and good books that are now 
within the reach of all. The fact is worth recording 
that yet another perhaps more than one other - 
article of daily use did duty in a plurality of households 
during those far-off days of general dearness. This 
was tea, then so costly that it was a common practice 
for poor people to call at the houses of the well- 
to-do, and ask for the used leaves, though not to 
cleanse carpets and glassware as we do at the present 
day, but to infuse afresh. 

The making of exemptions is a huge mistake ; and, 
according to the cynic, a mistake is more reprehensible 
than a crime. Exemptions create discontent, and 
justly so. Peel, inimical as he was to the postal 
reform, was well aware of the evils of the franking 
system, and said that " were each Government Depart- 
ment required to pay its own postage, much would 
done towards checking the abuse." * 

It was Rowland Hill's wish that franking should b< 
totally abolished. But vested interests that worst 
bar to all social progress proved stronger than th< 
reformer ; and his plan, in that and some other details, 
was not carried out in its entirety. Franking was 
enormously curtailed, but it was a scotching rather thai 
a killing process ; and after his retirement the evil 

1 "Life," i. 135. Peel voted against the Penny Postage Bill 
and even that kindly friend to the poorer classes, the " good " Lor 
Shaftesbury then Lord Ashley followed Sir Robert's example. 

From a Photograph by the London Stereoscopic Co. 

To face p. 49. 


thing slowly but steadily increased. Nor does the 
tendency at the present day give sign of abatement. 

As some of that increasingly large portion of the 
public which knows nothing of the old postal system 
are under the erroneous impression that others than 
Rowland Hill suggested the use of postage stamps for 
letters, it is well to point out that the employment 
of such stamps before 1840, so far from cheapening 
or rendering easier the payment of postal charges, 
must have made them considerably dearer, and 
have yet further complicated the process of letter- 
" taxing." 1 

Postage stamps, like railway tickets, are mere tokens 
of prepayment, and, however mentally hazy on the 
subject of the origin of postage stamps some of us 
may be, we can all easily understand how absurd, 
indeed impossible, introduction of the tickets would 
have been in the dark ages before railway trains began 

run. Equally impossible would have been the 
imployment, or even the suggestion, of stamps when 
letters were posted unpaid. Under the old system 
the letters of the unprivileged classes were rated, 
primarily, according to the distance travelled, though 
not necessarily the distance actually separating writer 
and recipient, because, although before 1840 railways 
existed, no close network of lines covered our land, 
providing, as it does to-day, direct and plentiful means 
of inter-communication ; and therefore the Post Office, 
to suit its own convenience, often obliged some of its 
mail matter to perform very circuitous routes, thereby 

1 That is, of calculating the amount of postage to be levied on 
each letter. 



not only retarding delivery, but rendering still greater 
the already great variability of rates. " Thus, for 
example, letters from Loughton to Epping (places 
only 2 or 3 miles apart) were carried into London 
and out again, and charged a postage of yd. that 
being the rate under the old system for letters between 
post towns ranging from 30 to 50 miles apart." l 
That this circumambulatory practice was responsible 
for waste of time as well as increase of cost is shown 
by the fact that of two letters, the one addressed to 
Highgate, and the other to Wolverhampton (120 miles 
further along the same coach road), and both posted in 
London at the same hour, the Highgate letter would 
be delivered last. As regards cost, an anomaly quite 
as absurd as the two foregoing existed in the case 
of letters between Wolverhampton and Brierley Hill 
which were carried by a cross-post passing through 
Dudley. If a letter went the whole way, the 
postage was id. ; but if it stopped short at Dudley, 
4d. was charged. Of the letters which performed 
circuitous routes, Scott, in the fortieth chapter ol 
" Guy Mannering," humorously remarks that, " There 
was a custom, not yet wholly obsolete, of causing 
a letter from one town to another, perhaps within the 
distance of 30 miles, to perform a circuit of 200 miles 
before delivery ; which had the combined advantage oi 
airing the epistle thoroughly, of adding some pence to 
the revenue of the Post Office, and of exercising the 
patience of the correspondents." 

The question of charge was still further complicated, 

because, secondarily, there existed "single," "double," 

1 " The Origin of Postage Stamps," p. 17. By Pearson Hill. 


" treble," and yet heavier rates of postage ; as when 
the treble rate was passed, further increase was 
reckoned by weight, the charge being quadrupled 
when the letter weighed an ounce, rising afterwards by 
a " single " postage for every additional quarter ounce. 
It was as well, perhaps, that the people who lived 
before the 'forties did not lead the feverish life of 
to-day. Otherwise, how would the post officials, to 
say nothing of the public, have remembered these 
positively bewildering details ? 

A "single" letter had to be written on a single 
sheet of paper, whose use probably gave rise to the 
practice of that now obsolete " cross " writing which 
often made an epistle all but illegible, but to which 
in those days of dear postage recourse was unavoid- 
able when much matter had to be crammed into the 
limited compass of that single sheet. If a second sheet, 
or even the smallest piece of paper, were added to the 
first, the postage was doubled. The effect of fasten- 
ing an adhesive stamp on to a single letter would 
therefore have been to subject the missive to a double 
charge ; while to have affixed a stamp to an envelope 
containing a letter would have trebled the postage. 
In other words, a man living, say, 400 miles from 
his correspondent, would have to pay something 
like 43. for the privilege of receiving from him 
a single sheet of paper carried in a wholly 
unnecessary cover bearing an equally unnecessary, 
because entirely useless, adornment in the shape of 
an adhesive stamp. For obvious reasons, therefore 
neither "the little bags called envelopes," as in his 
pamphlet Rowland Hill quaintly described these 


novel adjuncts, nor the stamps, were, or could be, 
in use. 1 

One veracious anecdote will suffice to show what 
came of evasion, wilful or unintentional, of a hard and 
fast postal rule. A letter was once sent from London 
to Wolverhampton, containing an enclosure to which 
a small piece of paper had been fastened. The process 
called " candling" showed that the letter consisted of 
three parts ; and the single postage being iod., a 
charge was made of 2s. 6d. 2 

1 A recent discussion in Notes and Queries (Tenth Series, 
vol. i.) has shown that envelopes are mentioned by Swift and later 
writers of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They are 
sometimes called "envelopes" and sometimes "covers." Their use 
must have been exceedingly limited, and still more limited, perhaps, 
is the number of people who have actually seen them. They 
were probably square sheets of paper used to enclose a number of 
missives addressed to one person or several persons living in the 
same neighbourhood ; and were, most likely, better known to the race 
of letter smugglers (about whom see further) than to any one else. 
An obituary notice in the Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury of 
23rd May, 1906, on the late Mr J. D. Tyson, "a notable Liverpool 
insurance broker," shows how new the use of envelopes as we now 
understand them was more than half a century ago. The writer 
says : " Even the introduption of the envelope was greatly opposed 
by most of the old firms ; and for fear the envelope would be thrown 
away and all traces of posting be lost, the juniors were instructed to 
pin the envelope to the letter. This had soon to give way when 
the usefulness of the envelope became so pronounced." 

2 The neat and rapid folding of the large sheets of paper on 
which single letters were written was regarded as one of the fine 
arts ; and lessons in it were sometimes given to boys at school. I 
have a distinct recollection of seeing a number of people seated 
round a table and practising letter-folding, and of my begging to 
be allowed to join the circle and try my diminutive 'prentice hand 
at the game. A dignified and elaborate process was the sealing 
of the folded letter, impressing much the juniors of the family, 


It will thus be seen that in reckoning the postage 
on a letter, distance, the number of enclosures (if 
any), and, finally, weight had to be taken into con- 
sideration. Nor should it be forgotten that of single 
inland letters the variations of charge amounted to 
over forty. Under so complicated a system, it was, 
save in very exceptional circumstances, far easier to 
collect the postage at the end of the letter's journey 
than at its beginning ; and, in the absence of prepay- 
ment, of what possible use could stamps have been, or 
what man in his senses would have proposed them ? 1 
Had later-day ignorance of the actual state of things 
under the old postal system been less widespread 
than it is, any claim to authorship of postage stamps 
before reform of that system was attempted or achieved 

who looked on admiringly, while the head thereof performed the 
ceremony, the only drawback being the odious smell of the un- 
necessarily large, old-fashioned "lucifer" match employed to light 
the candle. When one of the seals hanging to the broad silken 
strap showing below the paternal or grand-paternal waistcoat was 
pressed upon the bountifully spread, hot wax till a perfect impres- 
sion was left, the letter thus completed would be held up for all 
to see. What would those stately, leisurely-mannered gentlemen 
of the olden time, who, perhaps, took five or more minutes over 
the fastening of a letter, have said to our present style of doing 
things especially to the far from elegant mode of moistening the 
gummed envelope flap which has superseded the cleanly spreading 
of the scented wax and application of the handsome seal of armorial 
bearings carved on a precious stone and set in a golden shield ? 

i According to an extract taken from the " New Annual Directory 
for 1800," in the Guildhall Library, prepayment might be made 
in the case of the local "penny" (afterwards " twopenny") post. 
That this fact should need an advertisement seems to argue that, 
even as regards the local posts, prepayment was not a common 


would, for lack of the credulous element among the 
public, scarcely have been hazarded. 

The "candling" of letters was practised to 
ascertain whether single, double, treble, or still 
heavier postage should be charged. The missive was 
carried into a darkened room, and held up against a 
strong artificial light. This process not only gave 
the examining official some idea of the number of 
enclosures, if any, but often revealed their character. 
It was to defeat temptation to dishonesty caused by 
this scrutiny that the practice, not yet obsolete, was 
adopted of cutting a banknote in two before posting 
it, and keeping back the second half till receipt of the 
first had been acknowledged. 

Single letter postage between London and 
Edinburgh or Glasgow cost is. 3^d., between London 
and Aberdeen is. 4^d., and between London and 
Thurso is. 5^d., the odd halfpenny being the duty 
exacted in protectionist days to enable the epistle to 
cross the Scottish border. A letter to Ireland via 
Holyhead paid, in addition to ordinary postage, 
steamer rates and toll for using the Menai and Conway 
bridges. Or, if a letter took the southerly route to 
Ireland, the extra charge was levied at Milford. 
Single letter postage to Londonderry was is. 5d. 
To the many other more distant Irish towns it was 
still heavier. 

These single charges enforced, too, at a time 
when the nation, wearied out with many years of 
almost incessant war, was poorer far than it is now 
seem to us exorbitant. When, therefore, we think of 
them as doubled, trebled, quadrupled, and so forth, 


it is easy to understand why to all but the rich letter- 
writing became an almost lost art ; and we realise 
more clearly the truth of Miss Martineau's word- 
picture which a superficial reader might be inclined 
to pronounce overdrawn. 

The rates had been oppressive enough in 1801 
when, in order to swell the war-tax, a further contribu- 
tion to the Exchequer of ^i 50,000 was enforced. But 
in 1812 a yet further contribution of ,200,000 was 
required ; and these higher rates the highest ever 
reached were maintained for a quarter of a century 
after the peace of 1815 : that is, till Rowland Hill's 
reform swept the old system away. 

In order to increase the postal revenue, the screw 
had been tightened in a variety of ways, even to the 
arresting of further progress in Ralph Allen's much- 
needed "cross-posts" reform. 1 As Mr Joyce puts it: 
11 In 1695 a circuitous post would be converted into 
a direct one, even though the shorter distance carried 
less postage; in 1813 a direct post in place of a 
circuitous one was constantly being refused on the 
plea that a loss of postage would result." 2 In the 
latter year all sorts of oppressive and even bewilder- 
ing new regulations were enforced whose tendency 
was to make of the Post Office a yet harsher tax- 
raising machine. One new charge was of "an 
additional penny on each letter for the privilege of 

1 This was he who did "good by stealth, and blushfed] to find 
it fame." Out of his contract with the Post Office he made the 
large income, for that time, of ;i 2,000 a year, and spent the greater 
part of it in those acts of beneficence which, aided by Pope's famous 
lines, have preserved for him well-deserved, lasting fame. 

* " History of the Post Office," p. 357. 


the mail-coach passing through " l certain towns ; and 
other rules were equally vexatious. 

The lowest single postage to Paris was is. 8d. ; 
and in the case of foreign letters partial prepayment 
was the rule. For instance, when a letter travelled 
from London to Paris, the writer paid iod., 
which freed it as far as Calais only, its recipient 
paying the other iod. on its delivery in the 
French capital. Collection of postage at the end of 
the entire journey would have been contrary to 

The lowest single postage to Gibraltar was 
2s. iod. ; and to Egypt, 33. 2d. When a letter 
crossed the Atlantic to Canada or the United States 
an inland rate at each end of the transit was charged 
in addition to the heavy ocean postage. A packet 
of manuscript to either of those countries cost $ 
under the old system. But at this " reduced " (!) rate 
only a 3-lb. packet could be sent. Did one weigh the 
merest fraction of a pound over the permitted three, 
it could not go except as a letter, the postage upon 
which would have been ^22, os. Sd. 2 One can hardly 
expect the public of to-day to believe that rates such 
as these were ever in force. They sufficiently explain 
why it was that the ill - to - do relatives of equally 
ill-to-do people who emigrated to the Colonies or 
foreign countries often lost all trace of them. 

In the Morning Chronicle of 22nd August 1837, 
appeared an announcement that, " Henceforth postage 
on letters to the Mediterranean will be at the rate 

1 "History of the Post Office," p. 357. 

2 "The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago," p. 13. 


of only i os. an ounce" -showing that even as 
regards countries nearer home than America postal 
charges rendered letter-writing an expensive occupa- 
tion even to the well-to-do if they had a large foreign 
correspondence. To - day " a letter can be sent 
from London westward to San Francisco or eastward 
to Constantinople or Siberia for a less amount of 
postage than was charged in 1836 on one going 
from Charing Cross to Brompton." 1 And in the 
future the cost is likely to become less. 

The old postal rates being so burdensome, it was 
inevitable that tricks and evasions of many sorts 
should be practised, notwithstanding the merciless 
penalties that were inflicted on delinquents detected in 
the act. 

It is probably no exaggeration to say that 
hundreds, if not thousands, of newspapers were 
annually posted which no one particularly cared to 
read. Yet it is certain that many a recipient eagerly 
welcomed the paper sent him even though he might 
rarely unfold its pages. As newspapers went free 
or nominally did so, for after all the postage was 
indirectly taken out of the pocket of the man who 
invested 5d. in every copy of his "daily" and 
letters, except those which passed between members 
of the privileged classes, did not, the newspaper came 
to be a frequent bearer of well-disguised messages 
from one member of the unprivileged classes to 
another. The employment of inks of different colours, 
of variations in modes of writing names, callings, and 

1 "The Jubilee of the Uniform Penny Postage," p. 22. By 
Pearson Hill. 


addresses, and even peculiar flourishes executed by 
the pen, conveyed valuable information to him who 
received the paper, and enabled many tradesmen to 
keep up a brisk correspondence without contributing a 
farthing to the revenue. 

How, for example, should the uninitiated postal 
authorities know that the innocent-looking superscrip- 
tion on a newspaper sent from London to " Mr John 
Smith, Grocer, Tea-dealer, etc, No. i High Street 
Edinburgh," conveyed to Mr Smith the assurance that 
on Tuesday the price of sugar was falling, and that 
the remittances he had sent in discharge of his 
indebtedness had been received ? Yet so it was, for 
however fictitious the name and address, the case is 
genuine, the conspiring pair of correspondents having 
come forward during the agitation for penny postage 
as voluntary witnesses to the necessity for the reform, 
their evidence being the revelation of their fraud made 
on condition that they should be held exempt from 
prosecution. There were six different modes of 
writing Mr Smith's name, one for each working day 
of the week ; and the wording of his trade varied still 
oftener, and served to give him the latest news of the 
market. If Mr Smith's fellow-tradesman (and fellow- 
conspirator) in London wrote the address immediately 
after the name, omitting all mention of Mr Smith's 
calling, the latter knew that the goods he had sent 
had reached their destination. Variations rung upon 
the locality name, such as High Street (without the 
number), High St., i High Street, i High St., No. i 
High Street, or No. i High St., related to pecuniary 
matters. For while we have seen how satisfactory 


was the news conveyed in " No. i High Street," 
"High St.," on the contrary, told Mr Smith that the 
bills he sent had been dishonoured. 

But Mr Smith and colleague were by no means 
the only correspondents who deliberately plotted to 
defraud the revenue ; for, under the old system, it 
seemed to be each person's aim to extract the cost of 
postage on his own letters out of the pocket of some 
other person. In this achievement, however, there can 
be little doubt that, as a rule, the well-to-do made the 
most successful score. 

The story told by Mr Bertram in " Some Memories 
of Books " about the apprentice to a printing firm is 
another instance of evasion. The young man was 
frequently in want of clothing, and made known his 
need to those at home with as little outlay as though 
he had been a member of Parliament or peer of the 
realm. He printed small slips of paper bearing such 
legends as " want trousers," "send new coat," etc., 
pasted them into newspapers, and sent these to his 

At the present day indulgence in a practice of this 
sort would seem contemptible, a fraud to which only the 
meanest of mankind would resort. But had we too 
lived when postage was charged on a fourth part only 
of the entire mail, and when the writers of the letters 
forming that fourth part, and we among them, were 
taxed to make up the loss on the franked three- 
quarters, perhaps even we, immaculate as we believe 
ourselves to be, might have been tempted to put our 
scruples into our pocket to keep company with our 
slender purse, and have taken to " ways that are 


dark," though, if less astute than Mr John Smith and 
his London correspondent, possibly also to " tricks 
that are vain" with unpleasant consequences to 

There is an oft-quoted story about Coleridge, who, 
one day while wandering through the Lake District, 
saw a poor woman refuse a letter which the postman 
offered her. The kindly poet, in spite of the woman's 
evident reluctance to accept the gift, paid the money 
she could not raise ; but when the letter was opened, 
it was seen to be a blank sheet of paper not intended 
for acceptance, but sent by her son according to 
preconcerted agreement as a sign that he was well. 1 
This, then, is not only yet another illustration of the 
frauds to which the " have nots " were driven to resort, 
but, further, shows how profitless, even costly, was the 
labour imposed upon the Post Office by the system to 
which the authorities clung with so unaccountable 
an affection. For an unaccepted sheet of paper does 
not travel from London to the Lake District for 
nothing ; and when we multiply- one unaccepted letter 
by many thousands, one may form some idea of the 
amount of fruitless trouble as well as fruitless outlay 
which was incurred by the Department. 

The enforced silence between severed relations 
and friends was therefore rendered yet more painful 

1 " Letters, Conversations, and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge," 
ii. 114. In different versions of the story the absent relative is 
described as father, husband, or brother ; and in not a few cases 
the hero's action, through a mistake made by Miss Martineau when 
writing the History already alluded to, has been claimed for Rowland 
Hill, who is further supposed quite erroneously to have been then 
and there inspired with the resolve to undertake postal reformation. 


when the letters genuine letters too, not dummies 
got as far as the post office nearest to their intended 
destination, or even to the door of the poor dwellings 
to which they were addressed, yet failed to cross the 
threshold because their should-be recipients were too 
poverty-stricken to "take them up." In many in- 
stances mothers yearning to hear from absent children 
would pawn clothing or household necessaries rather 
than be deprived of the letters which, but for that 
sacrifice, must be carried back to the nearest post 
office to await payment. One poor woman, after 
striving for several weeks to make up the money to 
redeem a longed-for letter from her granddaughter in 
London, went at last to the local office with the 
shilling which a pitying lady gave her, only to find 
that the letter had been returned to town. She never 
received it. Another poor woman begged a local 
postmaster's daughter to accept a spoon by way of 
pledge till the ninepence charged upon a letter await- 
ing payment at the office could be raised. A labouring 
man declined an eightpenny letter though it came 
from a far-off daughter because the price meant one 
loaf the less for his other children. It was much 
harder for the poorest classes to find pence enough 
to lavish on postage in those yet earlier and often 
hungrier nineteenth century decades than even the 
"Hungry Forties"; during which years a man had 
sometimes to spend more than eightpence more 
occasionally than double that sum on his children's 

The refused missives, after waiting a while at the 
local office for the chance of redemption, went back 


to the chief office, were consigned to the " dead " 
department, and were there destroyed, thus costing 
the Service meaning, of course, the public the use- 
less double journey and the wasted labour of not a 
few officials. 

Sometimes a kind - hearted postmaster would 
advance the sum due for a letter out of his own 
pocket, taking his chance of being repaid. But 
not every postmaster could afford to take such risks, 
nor was it desirable that they should be laid upon 
the wrong shoulders. 

In 1837 the Finance Account showed a profitless 
expenditure of ;i 22,000 for letters "refused, mis-sent, 
re-directed, and so forth." This loss of revenue was, 
of course, quite distinct from that already mentioned 
as caused by the use of franks fictitious and genuine. 
Truly, the unprivileged paid somewhat dearly for th( 
advantages enjoyed by the privileged, since it lay wit 
the former both to make good the loss and to provide 
the required profit. 

Under the old system the postman would oftei 
be detained, sometimes as much as five minutes, at 
each house at which he called while he handed in hi< 
letters, and received the money due upon them, li 
business quarters this sort of thing had long beei 
found intolerable, and therefore, by private arrange- 
ment with the merchants, the postman, on the first 
and by far the heaviest, delivery of the day, did IN 
wait for his money. But after the second delivei 
he had to call at every house where he had left lettei 
earlier in the day and collect the postage : a procei 
which often made the second delivery lengthy an< 


wearisome. A test case showed that while it took a 
man an hour and a half to deliver 67 letters for which 
he waited to receive payment, half an hour sufficed 
for the delivery of 570 letters for which he did not 
wait to be paid. 1 

Another evil of the old system was the temptation 
to fraud which it put in the way of the letter-carriers. 
When a weak or unscrupulous man found a supply of 
loose cash in his pocket at the end of his delivery, his 
fingers would itch and not always in vain to keep it 
there. Again, an honest man, on his way back to the 
office with the proceeds of his round upon him, was 
not safe from attack if his road was lonely or the 
streets ill-lighted or deserted. The old foot and horse 
posts were often robbed. Murders even, Mr Joyce 
reminds us, were not infrequent, and executions failed 
to check them. 

The system of account-keeping was "an exceed- 
ingly tedious, inconvenient, and, consequently, ex- 
pensive process." 2 The money which the recipient 
of a letter paid to the postman passed to the local 
postmaster, who sent it on to the head office. It went 
through many hands, and peculation was rife. "The 

1 " Eighteenth Report of the Commissioners of Revenue 
Inquiry," pp. 621, 622. Now, if 570 letters, payment for which 
had not to be waited for, could be delivered in half an hour, it 
follows that in the hour and half consumed in delivering those 
67 other letters, three times 570, or 1710, prepaid letters might 
have been distributed. This one small fact alone furnishes proof 
of the necessity for prepayment, for this test delivery was made 
in the heart of the city of London, where prompt delivery and 
common-sense postal regulations are of paramount importance to 
business men. 

2 " Post Office Reform," p, 29. 


deputy postmasters could not be held to effectual 
responsibility as regards the amounts due from them 
to the General Office ; and as many instances of 
deficit came at times to light, sometimes following 
each other week after week in the same office, there 
can be no doubt that the total annual loss must have 
reached a serious amount." 1 

On the arrival of the mails at the General Post 
Office, the clerks were required to see that the charge 
entered upon every letter had been correctly made, 
and that each deputy postmaster had debited himself 
with the correct amount of postage ; to stamp the 
letters that is, to impress on them the date when 
they were posted ; to assort them for delivery, in 
which work the letter-carriers assisted ; to ascertain 
the amount of postage to be collected by each letter- 
carrier, and to charge him therewith. In addition to 
all this, another detail must not be forgotten that 
in the London Office alone there were daily many 
thousands of letters which had to undergo the 
4 'candling" process. 

For the outgoing mails the duties were some- 
what similar, and quite as complicated, and some 
seven hundred accounts had to be made out against 
as many deputy postmasters. 

Simplification of account-keeping under the old 
system, however much needed, seemed hopeless of 

Even in England, the most prosperous "partner" 
of the United Kingdom, there were at the time of 
the late Queen's accession, districts larger than 
1 " Post Office Reform," p. 29. 


Middlesex, within whose borders the postman never 
set foot. Of the 2,100 Registrar's districts into 
which England and Wales were divided, 400 districts, 
each containing on the average about 20 square miles 
and some 4,000 inhabitants making in all a popula- 
tion of about a million and a half had no post office 
whatever. The chief places in these districts, con- 
taining about 1,400 inhabitants each, were on the 
average some 5 miles, and in several instances as 
much as 1 6 miles, from the nearest post office. 1 

The 50,000 Irish, or immediate descendants of 
Irish in Manchester, said Cobden in his evidence 
before the Parliamentary Committee of 1838, were 
almost as completely cut off from communication 
with their relatives in Ireland as though they were 
in New South Wales. 2 And .when he drew this 
comparison, it counted for much more than it would 
do to-day. Great Britain and Australia were then 
practically much further asunder than they are now, 
sailing vessels at that time taking from four to six 
months to do the single, and sometimes nearly twelve 
the double voyage. A good many years had yet 
to elapse before the Indian Ocean was bridged by 
the fast steamships which have reduced that several 
months' journey to one of a few weeks only. 

The great free-trader's calico printing works were 
situated at a little town or village, of some 1,200 
inhabitants, called Sabden, 28 miles from Manchester. 
Although a manufacturing centre, it had no post 
office, and nothing that did duty for one. 

1 " The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago," p. 12. 

2 "Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage," p. 22. 


In the opening paragraph of the twenty-seventh 
chapter of "The Heart of Midlothian/' Scott says 
that in 1737 " So slight and infrequent was the 
intercourse betwixt London and Edinburgh, that 
upon one occasion the mail from the former city 
arrived at the General Post Office in Scotland with 
only one letter in it. The fact is certain. The 
single epistle was addressed to the principal director 
of the British Linen Company." 

In "Her Majesty's Mails" Mr Lewins says that: 
"About the same time the Edinburgh mail is said 
to have arrived in London containing but one letter 
addressed to Sir William Pulteney, the banker" 

(p. 8 5 ). 

The old system being at once clumsy, irrational, 
irritating, and unjust, little wonder need be felt that 
when Queen Victoria's reign began, each inhabitant 
of England and Wales received on an average one 
letter in three months, of Scotland one in four months, 
and of Ireland one a year. 1 

Until 1748 there were but three posts a week 
between London and Birmingham. In that year the 
number was doubled. The notice making known this 
improvement contains denunciations of the people 
who were in " any way concerned in the illegal col- 
lecting or delivery of Letters or Packets of Letters." 
The fines for the offence were " $ for every letter, 
and ;ioo for every week this practice is continued." 
But fines could not arrest the smuggling, because 
the practice was remunerative to the smugglers, and 
popular among those who employed them, and who 
1 " The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago," p. 14. 


thus enjoyed cheap rates of postage. Therefore the 
illegal traffic went on growing, till by the time the 
old system came to an end it had assumed vast 

Publishers and other business men wrote letters 
on one large sheet of paper for different people living 
in the same district. On reaching its destination 
the sheet was divided into its separate parts, each 
of which being then delivered by hand or local post. 
A similar practice in respect of money payments 
prevailed. 1 One publisher and bookseller said he 
was "not caught" till he had thus distributed 
some 20,000 letters. Several carriers made the 
collection and distribution of letters their only 
business, and in the collecting process women and 
children were employed. In one district the illegal 
practice was more than fifty years old, and in at 
least another, as we see by the notice quoted in the 
preceding paragraph, its age must have exceeded a 
century. In one then small town the daily average 
of smuggled letters amounted to more than 50, 
and on one occasion rose above 150. The Mr 
Brewin of Cirencester already mentioned said he 
knew two carriers who conveyed four times as many 
letters as did the mail. 2 One carrier confessed to 
having smuggled about 60 letters a day. On another 
carrier's premises a bag was seized containing 1,100 
letters. Twelve walking carriers between Birming- 
ham and Walsall were employed exclusively in 
conveying letters at a charge of a penny apiece. 

1 "Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage," p. 12. 
* Ibid. pp. 13, 14. 


Five Glasgow merchants illegally transmitted letters 
at the rate severally of three, eighteen, sixteen, eight, 
and fifteen to one that went legally. Five-sixths of 
the Manchester letters contributed nothing whatever to 
the postal revenue. 1 Nor does the list of delinquencies 
end here. 

Letters were also smuggled in warehousemen's 
bales and parcels ; among manufacturers' patterns and 
other things which coach proprietors, on payment 
of a trifle for booking, carried free of charge ; in 
weavers' bags, in farmers' " family boxes," and in 
other ways. 1 

Even the mail-coach drivers and guards engaged 
in the unlawful traffic, though in many instances 
letters were sent in coach parcels not so much to save 
postage as to facilitate transmission and ensure early 

Mr Maury, of the American Chamber of Commerce, 
assured the Select Committee that when regular 
steam communication between Liverpool and New 
York was established, the first steamer carried Jive 
letters in the large bag provided in expectation of 
a heavy dispatch. Ten thousand letters were, how- 
ever, placed in another bag sent to the care of the 
consignee of the same vessel ; and Mr Maury himself 
contributed some 200 free letters to this second bag. 
Every ten days a steamer left this country for America 
each carrying some 4,000 smuggled letters a fact 
of which the postal authorities were well aware ; and 
almost every shipbroker hung a bag in his office 

1 "Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage," pp. 


for the convenience of those who sent letters otherwise 
than through the post. Letters so collected by one 
broker for different ships in which he was interested 
were said to be sometimes "enough to load a cab." 
In in packages containing 822 newspapers sent 
in the course of five months to America, 648 letters 
were found concealed. The postmaster of Margate 
reported that in the visitors' season the increase of 
population there made no proportionate increase of 
postage, a fact which he attributed to the illegal con- 
veyance of letters by steamers. The growing facilities 
for travel caused a corresponding growth of letter- 
smuggling. At the same time, the more general 
establishment of local penny posts tended to secure 
to the Post Office the conveyance of letters between 
neighbouring towns and villages ; 1 and undoubtedly 
did much to recoup that extensively swindled Depart- 
ment for its loss of revenue caused by franking, 
evasions like those of Mr John Smith and others, 
and letter-smuggling. 

As usual, the people who practised the deception 
were scarcely so much to blame as those who, spite 
of every effort at reform, persisted in maintaining a 
system which created favouritism, hampered trade, 
severed family ties, and practically created the 
smuggling offence which scandalised the official 
conscience. Had the rates been less exorbitant, and 
had they fallen impartially on rich and poor, these 
dishonest practices might have had little or no 
existence. They ceased only when at last the old 
order changed, and, happily, gave place to new. 
1 "Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage," pp. 15-30. 



IN Mr Joyce's already quoted and exhaustive work 
upon the Post Office as it existed before 1840 an 
interesting account is given of the reformers who, 
long before Rowland Hill's time, did so much to 
render the service efficient, and therefore to benefit 
the nation. As pioneers in a good cause, they deserve 
mention in another volume dealing with the same 
public Department ; and their story is perhaps the 
better worth repeating because it shows how curi- 
ously similar is the treatment meted out to those 
who are rash enough to meddle with a long-estab- 
lished monopoly, no matter how greatly it may stand 
in need of reform. In every instance the reformer 
struggled hard for recognition of the soundness of 
his views, toiled manfully when once he had acquired 
the position he deserved to hold, was more or less 
thwarted and harassed while he filled it, and, precisely 
as if he had been a mischievous innovator instead of 
a public benefactor, was eventually got rid of. 

As regards the Post Office, each of the best-known 
reformers was handicapped by the fact that, with one 
notable exception, he was that unwelcome thing, an 
outsider. Murray was an upholsterer, or, according 
to another account, a clerk in the Assize Office ; 



Dockwra was a sub-searcher at the Custom House ; 
and Palmer was the proprietor of the Bath theatre. 
My father, as has been shown, had been a school- 
master, a rotatory printing press inventor, and a 
member of the South Australian Commission. Even 
when his plan was accepted by the Government, he 
had yet to set foot within the Post Office, though not 
for want of trying to enter, because while collecting 
material for his pamphlet in 1836 he had applied to 
the authorities for permission to inspect the working 
of the Department, only to meet with a refusal. 

The one notable exception was Ralph Allen, Pope's 
41 humble Allen," and, as mentioned in the previous 
chapter, the author of the cross-posts. The original 
of Fielding's " Squire Allworthy" had, Mr Joyce tells 
us, "been cradled and nursed in the Post Office," 
and his grandmother was postmistress at St Columb, 
Cornwall. Here he kept the official accounts in so 
neat and regular a manner that he attracted the 
attention of the district surveyor, and, later, was 
given a situation in the Bath Post Office, eventually 
becoming its chief official. 1 

Mr Joyce's narrative, as we have seen, is brought 
down only to the end of the old postal system. To 
that which superseded it he makes but brief allusion, 
because the subject had already been dealt with in 
the two volumes edited and added to by Dr Birkbeck 

In the present work the story will be carried less 
than thirty years beyond the time at which Mr Joyce's 
narrative ends that is, so far as postal reform is 
1 " History of the Post Office," p. 146, 


concerned. The later history of the Post Office, 
which would easily make a volume as large as Mr 
Joyce's, has yet to find an author, and to rank worthily 
beside his should be written with a corresponding care 
and accuracy of detail. 

One chapter only need be devoted here to the 
most prominent early postal reformers, and their story 
shall begin with Witherings (1635). Speaking of his 
work, Mr Joyce says, "This was the introduction 
of postage." 1 To Witherings, therefore, must be 
awarded the merit of having furnished cause for a 
new meaning of the word "post," whose earlier 
usage still survives in some provincial hotel notices 
announcing "posting in all its branches." 2 

In Witherings' time the postal rates were, for 
single letters, "under 80 miles, 2d. ; under 140 miles, 
4d. ; over 140 miles, 6d. for until 1840 the charges 
were calculated according to distance. For double 

1 "History of the Post Office," p. 18. 

2 The word " postage," we are told, was originally applied to the 
hire of a horse for "posting," and was extended to letters in com- 
paratively recent times only. It is therefore well when meeting with 
the word in other than modern documents not to conclude too 
hastily that it relates to epistolary correspondence. An Act of 1764 
is said to be the first in which was used " postage " in the sense of a 
charge upon letters. But in 1659 the item, "By postage of letters 
in farm, ,14,000, " appears in a "Report on the Public Revenue 
in the Journals of the House of Commons," vii. 627. The fact 
likewise seems well worth recalling that in the translation of the 
Bible of 1611 the words "post" and "letters" are connected, not- 
ably in " 2 Chronicles," xxx. 6, and in "Esther." Chapter xvii. of 
Marco Polo's travels, by the by, contains an interesting description 
of the horse and foot posts in the dominions of Kubla Khan, which 
were so admirably organised that the journeys over which ordinary 
travellers spent ten days were accomplished by the posts in two. 


letters double rates were, of course, exacted. If 
" bigger" than double, the postage became 6d., 
9d. and is. Single postage to and from Scotland 
was 8d., to and from Ireland gd. These were 
heavy rates at a time when the country was far 
less wealthy and the relative value of money 
higher than is now the case. But at least service 
was rendered for the heavy rates, as " Hence- 
forth the posts were to be equally open to all ; all 
would be at liberty to use them ; all would be 
welcome." l 

Witherings especially distinguished himself in the 
management of the foreign postal service, which he 
accelerated and made more efficient. In 1637 he was 
appointed " Master of the Posts," and was thus the 
only reformer from outside who, withinside, rose to 
become supreme head of the Department. The office 
was given to enable him to undertake, unhindered, 
the improvements he proposed to make in the inland 
posts. Three years later he was dismissed, and an 
end put to " the career of one who had the sagacity to 
project and the energy to carry out a system, the 
main features of which endure to the present day." 2 

In 1643 the postal revenue amounted to some 
,5,000 a year only. By 1677 the Department's 
profits were farmed at .43,000 a year, and the 
officials consisted of one Postmaster - General and 
seventy-five employees. A writer of the day tells 
us that "the number of letter missives is now pro- 
digiously great." 

1 "History of the Post Office," p. 18. 

2 Ibid. p. 21. 


In 1658 John Hill, a Yorkshire attorney, did 
good work, and tried to accomplish more. He already 
supplied post horses between York and London, 
undertook the conveyance, at cheap rates, of parcels 
and letters, and established agencies about the country 
for the furtherance of a scheme to greatly reduce 
the postal charges throughout the kingdom ; his pro- 
posal being a penny rate for England and Wales, a 
twopenny rate for Scotland, and a fourpenny rate for 
Ireland. But the Government declined to consider 
the merits of the plan. 

When Dockwra who gave practical shape to the 
scheme which Murray had assigned to him estab- 
lished his reform of a penny post, London had no 
other post office than the general one in Lombard 
Street, 1 and there was no such thing as a delivery 
of letters between one part of London and another. 
Thus, if any Londoner wished to write to any other 
Londoner, he was obliged to employ a messenger 
to convey his missive to its destination ; and as the 
houses then had no numbers, but were distinguished 
only by signs, the amateur letter-carrier must have 
been often puzzled at which door to knock. 

Dockwra soon put his great scheme into working 
order. He divided city and suburbs into districts 
in that respect forestalling a feature of Rowland Hill's 
plan seven in number, each with a sorting office ; 
and in one day opened over four hundred receiving 
offices. In the city letters were delivered for id., 
in the suburbs for 2d. It must have been quite 

1 In George I.'s reign, besides London, Chester is said to have 
been the only town in England which possessed two post offices, 


as epoch-making a reform to the Londoners of the 
seventeenth century, as was the far wider-reaching, 
completer scheme established a hundred and sixty 
years later to the entire nation. For Dockwra's, 
though for its time a wonderful advance, was but a 
local institution, the area served being "from Hackney 
in the north to Lambeth in the south, and from 
Blackwall in the east to Westminster in the west." 1 
He also introduced a parcel post. 

The local penny posts for they were afterwards 
extended to many other towns have given some 
people the erroneous impression that Rowland Hill's 
plan of penny postage was simply an elaboration 
and a widening of Dockwra's older system. Things 
called by a similar name are not necessarily identical. 
Indeed, as we have seen, the word "postage" had 
formerly quite a different meaning from that it now 
has ; and, although Dockwra's " penny post " and 
Rowland Hill's "penny postage" related equally to 
postage in its modern interpretation of the word, that 
the system established in 1840 materially differed 
from preceding systems will be shown in the suc- 
ceeding chapter. 2 

Dockwra's reform was inaugurated in 1680, proved 
of immense benefit to the public, was intended to last 
for ever, and did last for a hundred and twenty-one 
years. In 1801 the charges on the local to say 
nothing of those on the general post were raised 

1 "History of the Post Office," p. 37. 

2 " The ancient penny post resembled the modern penny post 
only in name," says Justin M'Carthy in "A History of Our Own 
Times," chap. iv. p. 99. 


from id. and 2d. to 2d. and 3d., while its area, 
which in Queen Anne's reign had been extended 
to from 1 8 to 20 miles beyond London, shrank into 
much narrower limits. 1 The increase of charge was 
due to that augmented contribution, on the part of 
the Post Office, to the war - tax which has been 
already mentioned. During the last twenty-five of 
the years 1801-1840 the country was at peace, but 
the tendency of " temporary " war-taxes is to become 
permanent, or to die a very lingering death ; and, as 
has been shown, no diminution was made in postal 
rates ; and letter - writing in thousands of homes 
practically ceased to be. 

In 1663 the entire profits of the Post Office had 
been settled on James, Duke of York ; and Dockwra's 
reform, like other large measures, being costly to 
establish, he had to seek financial help outside the 
Department, the requisite money being furnished by 
a few public-spirited citizens of London. The under- 
taking was a losing speculation at first, but presently 
began to prosper ; and the Duke's jealousy was at 
once roused. " So long," says Mr Joyce, "as the 
outgoings exceeded the receipts, Dockwra remained 
unmolested ; but no sooner had the balance turned 
than the Duke complained of his monopoly being 
infringed, and the Courts of Law decided in his 
favour. Not only was Dockwra cast in damages, 
but the undertaking was wrested out of his hands." 2 

1 The " New Annual Directory for 1800 " (see Guildhall Library), 
speaking of the " Penny Post," defines its area as " the cities of 
London [and] Westminster, the borough of Southwark and their 

2 " History of the Post Office," pp. 37-40. 


During James's reign this eminent public servant 
met with no recognition of his valuable work ; but 
under William and Mary he was granted a pension, 
and after some delay was reinstated as comptroller 
of the penny post. But in 1700 both situation and 
pension came to an end ; and the man who had 
conferred so signal a benefit upon his fellow-citizens 
was finally dismissed. 

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the 
posts in Ireland were few and far between. Carrick- 
on-Shannon was the only town in County Leitrim 
which received a mail, and that not oftener than 
twice a week. Several districts in Ireland were 
served only at the cost of their inhabitants. 

Besides London, Bath alone favoured by its 
two distinguished citizens, Ralph Allen and John 
Palmer --had, before 1792, more than one letter- 
carrier ; and many important centres of population, 
such as Norwich, York, Derby, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 
and Plymouth, had none at all the postmaster, and 
in some instances a single assistant, constituting the 
entire staff, no sort of duty outside the official walls 
being undertaken. The Channel Islands were treated 
as though they had been in another planet. Before 
1794 they had no postal communication with the rest 
of the United Kingdom, though for some years local 
enterprise had provided them with an inter-insular 
service. When Palmer appeared on the scene, the 
number of towns in the British Isles which received 
mails increased rapidly, while those already served 
two or three times a week began to receive a post 


In no respect, perhaps, has greater progress been 
made than in the matter of mail conveyance, both as 
regards acceleration and safety, and in other ways. 
In Witherings' time about two months were required 
for a letter and its answer to pass between London 
and Scotland or London and Ireland. Exchange of 
correspondence between the three kingdoms was, 
strange to say, far less expeditiously carried on than 
that between London and Madrid. But when it is 
remembered how direful was the condition of our 
thoroughfares in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries, the impossibility of anything like swift 
progress becomes evident. Ruts there were, says 
Arthur Young, which measured 3 feet in depth, and 
in wet weather were filled to the brim with water ; 
while in "Guy Mannering" Scott speaks of districts 
"only accessible through a succession of tremendous 
morasses." In "Waverley" (temp. 1745) is described 
the " Northern Diligence, a huge, old-fashioned tub 
drawn by three horses, which completed the journey 
from Edinburgh to London ('God willing,' as the 
advertisement expressed it) in three weeks." Twenty 
years later, even, the coaches spent from twelve to 
fourteen days upon the journey, and went once a 
month only. In some places the roads were so bad 
that it was necessary to erect beacons alongside them 
to keep the travelling public after dark from falling 
into the ponds and bogs which lined the highways 
and sometimes encroached upon them. Elsewhere, 
the ponderous " machines " groaned or clattered over 
rocky and precipitous ways, rolling and pitching like 
a vessel on an angry sea. Not even by the more 


lightly-freighted men on foot and boys mounted on 
the wretched steeds provided for the Post Office 
service could swifter progress be made. No wonder 
that letter and answer should travel but slowly. 

In 1784, when Palmer proposed the abolition of 
these slow-moving and far from trustworthy mail- 
carriers, 1 and the substitution in their place of the 
existing stage-coaches, 2 great were the scorn and 
indignation of the postal authorities. Seven miles an 
hour instead of three and a half! And coaches instead 
of post-boys ! Were ever such mad proposals heard 
of! The officials were " amazed that any dissatisfac- 
tion, any desire for change should exist." Not so 
very long before, they had plumed themselves on the 
gratifying fact that " in five days an answer to a letter 
might be had from a place distant 200 miles from 
the writer." And now, even in face of that notable 
advance, the public wanted further concessions ! One 
prominent official " could not see why the post should 
be the swiftest conveyance in England." Another 

1 Or, in his own words, mails trusted to " some idle boy without 
a character, mounted on a worn-out hack, who, so far from being 
able to defend himself against a robber, was more likely to be in 
league with one." Apparently, the people of this class had no 
better name in France, and probably other countries, to judge by a 
fragment of conversation taken from Augier, and chronicled in 
Larousse's " Dictionnairc du XIX e Siecle" xii. 1497 : " La poste 
est en retard." " Oui, d'une heure a peu pres. Le pieton prend 
courage a tous les cabarets." 

2 As a contemporary of Palmer, Scott was never guilty of an 
anachronism not unknown to present-day authors who sometimes 
cause the puppet men and women of their romances to travel before 
1784 in wa/7when they really mean stage coaches. The terms are 
too often taken to be synonymous. 


was sure that if travelling were made quicker, the 
correspondence of the country would be thrown into 
the utmost confusion. But he thought and perhaps 
the parentage of the thought was not far to seek that 
to expedite the mails was simply impossible. The 
officials, indeed, were " unanimously of opinion that 
the thing is totally impracticable." 1 And, doubtless, 
Palmer was set down as "a visionary" and " a 
revolutionist" names to be bestowed, some fifty- 
three years later, upon another persistent reformer. 
A second Committee, formed to consider Palmer's pro- 
posals, reported that it had ''examined the oldest and 
ablest officers of the Post Office, and they had no con- 
fidence whatever in the plan." "It is always," said 
Brougham, when, in the Upper House, he was advocat- 
ing adoption of the later reform, " the oldest and ablest, 
for the Committee considered the terms synonymous."' 

Thus does history repeat itself. As it was with 
Palmer, so, before him, it was with Witherings 
and Dockwra ; and, after him, with Rowland Hill. 
The unforgivable offence is to be wiser than one's 
opponents, and to achieve success when failure has 
been predicted. 

But worse things than prophecy of failure accom- 
pany reforms, attempted or accomplished, and act like 
a discordant chorus striving to drown sweet music. 
Prophecy of dire results, such as ruin of society, 
disruption of the Empire, etc., are sometimes raised, 
and carry dismay into the hearts of the timid. 
My father, who was born less than forty-three years 

1 " Report of the Committee of Inquiry (1788)." 

2 "Hansard," xxxix. 1201, etc. 


after " the change of style," as a child often heard old 
people, in all seriousness, lament the loss of "our 
eleven days, "and declare that since it was -made every- 
thing in this country had gone wrong. 1 I too, when 
young, have heard aged lips attribute the awful cholera 
visitation of 1832 to our sinfulness in passing the 
Catholic Emancipation Bill ; and the potato disease 
and consequent Irish famine in the mid 'forties to 
interference with the sacred Corn Laws. We laugh 
at this sort of thing to-day, but are we much wiser 
than our forebears ? 

Although these great reforms differ widely in 
character, the gloomy predictions concerning them are 
substantially alike. The terrible things prophesied 
never come to pass ; and of the reforms when once 
established no sane person wishes to get rid. 

When at last Palmer had borne down opposition 

1 For nearly two centuries the change was opposed here, partly* 
perhaps chiefly, because it was inaugurated on the Continent by a 
Pope, Gregory XIII. Common-sense and the noblest of all sciences 
were on the side of His Holiness ; but religious bigotry was too 
strong even for that combination ; and for those many years 
religious bigotry held the field. Opposition did not cease even 
when the correction was made ; and grave divines preached against 
the wickedness of an Act which, they said, brought many millions 
of sinners eleven days nearer to their graves; and in one of 
Hogarth's series of Election Pictures, a man is seen bearing a 
placard on which is inscribed the words, " Give us back our eleven 
days." Most of us, too, are familiar with the cruel story of the witch 
mania which was shared by men as excellent as Sir Matthew Hale 
and John Wesley. To-day, we are glad that old, friendless men and 
women, to say nothing of their harmless, necessary cats, are 
permitted to die peacefully. Are there any now among us who 
would restore the Act, JDe Comburendo Heretico, expunged from the 
Statute Book in William's III.'s reign a removal which doubtless 
scandalised not a few sincerely devout persons ? 



and been placed in authority, he set to work in a 
far-reaching, statesmanlike manner. The old, worth- 
less vehicles which, owing to their frequent habit of 
breaking down on the road, had become a constant 
source of complaint, were gradually got rid of ; and 
by 1792 all his mail-coaches were new. He was a 
born organiser, and insisted on the introduction and 
maintenance of business-like methods. Unnecessary 
stoppages along the road were put an end to, and 
necessary stoppages shortened ; the mail-bags to be 
taken on were made up before the coaches appeared, 
the mail-bags to be taken off were ready to the guard's 
hand ; and strict punctuality was enforced. The 
guards and coachmen were armed, and no one unskilled 
in the use of firearms was employed in either capacity. 
The harness and other accoutrements were kept in 
good repair, the coaches were well-horsed, and the 
relays were made with reasonable frequency. 1 

Palmer had calculated that sixteen hours ought to 
suffice for the London and Bath coach when cover- 
ing the distance between the two cities. The time 
usually spent on the road was thirty-eight hours. The 
first mail-coach which started from Bath to London 
under his auspices in 1784 performed the journey 
in seventeen hours, proving with what nearness to 
absolute accuracy he had made his calculations. For 
a while seventeen hours became the customary time- 
limit. Not long after this date mail - coaches were 
plying on all the principal roads. 

1 In the oldest days of coaching, the horses which started with 
the vehicle drew it to the journey's end. Relays of horses were a 
happy afterthought. 


Before the first of Palmer's coaches went to 
Liverpool, that seaport was served by one letter- 
carrier. Ten years later, six were needed. One 
postman had sufficed for Edinburgh ; now four were 
required. Manchester till 1792 had but one letter- 
carrier, and its postal staff consisted of an aged 
widow and her daughter. Previous to 1794 the 
Isle of Wight was served by one postmaster and 
one letter-carrier only. 

Before Palmer took over the management of the 
coaches they were robbed, along one road or 
another, at least once a week. It was not till his 
rule was ten years old that a coach was stopped 
or robbed ; and then it was not a highwayman, but 
a passenger who did the looting. Before 1784 the 
annual expenditure incurred through prosecution of 
the thieves had been a heavy charge on the service, 
one trial alone that of the brothers Weston, who 
figure in Thackeray's " Denis Duval "- having cost 
,4,000. This burden on the Post Office revenue 
henceforth shrank into comparatively insignificant 

Palmer traversed the entire kingdom along its 
coach routes, making notes of the length of time 
consumed on each journey, calculating in how much 
less time it could be performed by the newer 
vehicles, and always keeping an observant eye on 
other possible improvements. 

Before the end of the eighteenth century 
Dockwra's London penny post 1 had fallen upon 

1 Dublin became possessed of a local. penny post before 1793 ; 
but not until that date, or a hundred and thirteen years after 

8 4 


evil days. Neglect and mismanagement had been 
its lot for many years ; there was a steady diminu- 
tion of its area, and no accounts were kept of its 
gains. Palmer looked into the condition of the 
local post, as, in addition to the mail conveyance, 
he had already looked into the condition of the 
newspaper post and other things which stood in 
need of rectification ; and, later, the old penny post, 
now transformed into a twopenny post, was taken 
in hand by Johnson, who, from the position of 
letter-carrier, rose, by sheer ability, to the office of 
" Deputy Comptroller of the Penny Post." 

As a rule, Palmer was fortunate in choosing 
subordinates, of whom several not only accomplished 
useful work long after their chief had been dismissed, 
but who introduced reforms on their own account. 
Hasker, the head superintendent of the mail-coaches, 
kept the vehicles, horses, accoutrements, etc., to say 
nothing of the officials, quite up to Palmer's level. 
But in another chosen man the great reformer was 
fatally deceived, for Bonner intrigued against his 
benefactor, and helped to bring about his downfall. 

One reform paves the way for succeeding reforms. 
Palmer's improved coaches caused a marked increase 
of travelling ; and the establishment of yet better 
and more numerous vehicles led to the making of 

the establishment of Dockwra's reform in London, was it considered 
worth while to extend the boon to Manchester which had now dis- 
placed Bristol as the second town in the kingdom or to the last- 
named city and to Birmingham. At this time, too, it was still 
customary to address letters bound for the centre of the cutlery 
industry to " Sheffield, near Rotherham," the latter being the more 
important town. 


better roads. By this time people were beginning 
to get over the ground at such a rate that the late 
Lord Campbell, when a young man, was once, in 
all seriousness, advised to avoid using Palmer's 
coaches, which, it was said, owing to the speed at 
which they travelled between London and Edinburgh, 
and elsewhere, had caused the death of several 
passengers from apoplexy ! " The pace that killed " 
was 8 miles an hour. By the time the iron 
horse had beaten the flesh - and - blood quadruped 
out of the field, or rather road, the coaches were 
running at the rate of 12 miles an hour. 

Everywhere the mails were being accelerated 
and increased in number. For now the science of 
engineering was making giant strides ; and Telford 
and his contemporary MacAdam whose name has 
enriched our language with a verb, while the man 
himself endowed our thoroughfares with a solid 
foundation were covering Great Britain with high- 
ways the like of which had not been seen since 
the days of the Roman Conquest. 

And then arrived the late 'twenties of the nine- 
teenth century, bringing with them talk of railways 
and of steam - propelled locomotives whose speed, 
it was prophesied by sanguine enthusiasts, might 
some day even rival that of a horse at full gallop. 
The threatened mail-coaches lived on for many a 
year, but from each long country highway they dis- 
appeared one after another, some of them, it is said, 
carrying, on their last journey, the Union Jack at 
half-mast ; and, ere long, the once busy roadside 
inn-keepers put up their shutters, and closed the 



doors of their empty stables. More than half a 
century had to elapse before the hostelries opened 
again to the cyclists and motorists who have given 
to them fresh life and energy. 

And thus passed away the outward and visible 
witnesses to Palmer's great reform, not as many 
things pass because they have reached the period 
of senile decay, but when his work was at the high 
water - mark of efficiency and fame. Perhaps that 
singular fact is suggestive of the reason why the 
disappearance of the once familiar pageant gave rise 
to a widespread regret that was far from being mere 

When they were in their prime, the " royal mail- 
coaches " made a brave display. Ruddy were they 
with paint and varnish, and golden with Majesty's 
coat-of-arms, initials, etc. The driver and guard 
were clad in scarlet uniforms, and the four fine 
horses often increased in a " difficult" country to 
six or more were harnessed two abreast, and went 
at a good, swinging pace. Once upon a time a 
little child was taken for a stroll along a suburban 
highroad to watch for the passing of the mail- 
coaches on their way from London to the north 
a literally everyday pageant, but one unstaled by 
custom. In the growing dusk could be distinguished 
a rapidly-moving procession of dark crimson and 
gold vehicles in single file, each with its load of 
comfortably wrapped-up passengers sitting outside, 
and each drawn by four galloping steeds, whose 
quick footfalls made a pleasant, rhythmic sound. 
One heard the long, silvern horns of the guards, 


every now and then, give notice in peremptory tones 
to the drivers of ordinary conveyances to scatter to 
right and left, and one noted the heavy cloud of dust 
which rolled with and after the striking picture. A 
spectacle it was beside which the modern railway 
train is ugly, the motor-car hideous : which rarely 
failed to draw onlookers to doorways and windows, 
and to give pedestrians pause ; and which always 
swept out of sight much too quickly. The elderly 
cousin accompanying the child drew her attention 
to the passing procession, and said that her father 
was doing something in connection with those 
coaches meaning, of course, their mails something 
that would make his country more prosperous and 
his own name long remembered. The child listened 
in perplexity, not understanding. In many noble 
arts above all, in the fashioning of large, square 
kites warranted, unlike those bought at shops, to 
fly and not to come to pieces she knew him to be 
the first of men. Yet how even he could improve 
upon the gorgeous moving picture that had just 
flashed past it was not easy to understand. 

In the days when railways and telegraphs were 
not, the coach was the most frequent, because the 
fastest, medium of communication. It was therefore 
the chief purveyor of news. On the occurrence of 
any event of absorbing interest, such as the most 
stirring episodes of the twenty-years-long war with 
France, or the trial of Queen - Consort Caroline, 
people lined the roads in crowds, and as the coach 
swept past, the passengers shouted out the latest 
intelligence. Even from afar the waiting throngs 



in war time could always tell when the news was 

of victories gained, or, better still, of peace, such 

as the short-lived pact of Amiens, and the one of 

long duration after June 1815. On these occasions 

the vehicle was made gay with flags, ribbons, green 

boughs, and floral trophies ; and the passengers 

shouted and cheered madly, the roadside public 

speedily becoming equally excited. It fell one day 

to Rowland Hill's lot, as a lad of nineteen, to meet 

near Birmingham an especially gaily-decked coach, 

and to hurry home with the joyful intelligence of 

the "crowning mercy" at one stage of the battle, 

'tis said, not far from becoming a defeat of Waterloo. 

The once celebrated Bianconi was known as " the 

Palmer of Ireland." Early in the nineteenth century 

he covered the roads of his adopted country with an 

admirably managed service of swift cars carrying 

mails and passengers ; and thus did much to remedy 

postal deficiencies there, and to render imperative the 

maintenance in good order of the public highways. 

Once, if not oftener, during his useful career, he 

came to the Post Office on official business, and 

"interviewed" Rowland Hill, who found him an 

interesting and original - minded man, his fluent 

English, naturally, being redolent of the Hibernian 

brogue. Bianconi's daughter, who married a son of 

the great O'Connell, wrote her father's "Life"; and, 

among other experiences, told how on one occasion 

he was amazed to see a Catholic gentleman, while 

driving a pair of horses along the main street of 

an Irish town, stopped by a Protestant who coolly 

detached the animals from the carriage, and walked 


off with them. No resistance could be offered, and 
redress there was none. The horses were each 
clearly of higher value than the permitted $ 
apiece, and could therefore legally become the 
property of any Protestant mean enough, as this 
one was, to tender that price, and (mis)appropriate 
them. When Catholic Emancipation long promised 
and long deferred was at last conceded, this 
iniquitous law, together with other laws as bad or 
worse, was swept away. 1 

With the advent of railways the "bians" gradually 
disappeared, doing so when, like the mail-coaches, they 
had reached a high level of excellence, and had been 
of almost incalculable public benefit. 

The mail-coach, leisurely and tedious as it seems 
in these days of hurry, had a charm of its own in that 
it enabled its passengers to enjoy the fresh air since 
most of them, by preference, travelled outside and 
the beauties of our then comparatively unspoiled country 
and of our then picturesque old towns, mostly sleepy 
or only slowly awakening, it is true, and, doubtless, 
deplorably dull to live in. The journey was at least 
never varied by interludes of damp and evil-smelling 
tunnels, and the travelling ruffian of the day had less 
opportunity for outrage on his fellowman or woman. 
The coach also, perhaps, lent itself more kindly to 
romance than does the modern, noisy railway train ; 
at any rate, a rather pretty story, long current in our 

1 For a graphically described contrast between the treatment 
meted out in those "good old times" to Catholics and that to 
Protestants, see Sydney Smith's too-seldom read "Peter Plymley's 


family, and strictly authentic, belongs to the ante- 
railway portion of the nineteenth century. One of 
my mother's girl-friends, pretty, lively, clever, and 
frankly coquettish, was once returning alone by coach 
to London after a visit to the country. She was the 
only inside passenger, but was assured that the other 
three places would be filled on arrival at the next 
stage. When, therefore, the coach halted again, she 
looked with some curiosity to see who were to be 
her travelling companions. But the expected three 
resolved themselves into the person of one smiling 
young man whose face she recognised, and who at 
once sat down on the seat opposite to hers, ere long 
confessing that, hearing she was to come to town by 
that coach, he had taken all the vacant places in order 
to make sure of a tte-d-tte. He was one of several 
swains with whom she was accustomed to flirt, but 
whom she systematically kept at arm's-length until she 
could make up her mind whether to say " yes " or 
"no." But he had come resolved to be played with 
no longer, and to win from her a definite answer. 
Whether his eloquent pleading left her no heart to 
falter "no," or whether, woman-like, she said "yes" 
by way of getting rid of him, is not recorded. But 
that they were married is certain ; and it may as well 
be taken for granted that, in accordance with the time- 
honoured ending of all romantic love stories, " they 
lived happy ever after." 

No eminent postal reformer rose during the first 
thirty-seven years of the nineteenth century unless we 
except that doughty Parliamentary free lance, Robert 
Wallace of Kelly, of whom more anon. But the 


chilling treatment meted out by officials within the 
postal sanctuary to those reform - loving persons 
sojourning outside it, or even to those who, sooner 
or later, penetrated to its inner walls, was scarcely 
likely to tempt sane men to make excursions into 
so inhospitable a field. 

Yet it was high time that a new reformer appeared, 
for the Department was lagging far behind the Post 
Offices of other countries especially, perhaps, that of 
France and the wonderful nineteenth "century of 
progress " had now reached maturity. 



"If in 1834 only a moderate reduction had been made in the 
extortionate rates of postage which were then in force, Rowland 
Hill might not have embarked upon his plan ; and, even if he had 
done so, that plan might have failed to evoke from the public 
sufficient force to overcome opposition in high quarters. In pro- 
portion to the extent of the evil did men welcome the remedy. "- 
JOYCE'S "History of the Post Office," p. 420. 

The postal reform "perhaps represents the greatest social 
improvement brought about by legislation in modern times." JUSTIN 
M'CARTHY in "A History of Our Own Times," chap. iv. p. 89. 

FOR many years my father's attention had been turned 
towards the question of postal reform ; although in 
that respect he was far from standing alone. The 
defects of the old system were so obvious that with 
many people they formed a common subject of con- 
versation ; and plans of improvement were repeatedly 
discussed. So far back as 1826 Rowland Hill's 
thoughts had outgrown the first stage on the road 
to " betterment " that of mere fault-finding with the 
things that are. He had drawn up a scheme for 
a travelling post office. The fact that, whereas the 
mails from all parts as a rule reached London at 
6 A.M., while the distribution of letters only began 
three hours later, struck him as a defect in need of 



urgent remedy. If, he argued, the inside of the mail- 
coach, or " an additional body thereto, were to be fitted 
with shelves and other appliances, the guard might 
sort and [date] stamp the letters, etc., on the journey. 
By so doing, time would be saved : the mails would 
either leave the provincial towns three hours later, 
giving more time for correspondence, or the letters 
could be delivered in London three hours earlier." 
In January 1830 he suggested the dispatch of mail 
matter by means of pneumatic tubes. But neither 
project went beyond the stage of written memoranda ; 
nor, in face of the never-failing hostility manifested 
by the post officials towards all reforms, especially 
those emanating from outsiders, was likely to do 

Early in the 'thirties reductions in certain depart- 
ments of taxation had been made ; and my father's 
mind being still turned towards the Post Office, he 
fell into the habit of discussing with his family and 
others the advisability of extending similar reductions 
to postal rates. 

And this seems a fitting place to mention that 
while from every member of his family he received 
the heartiest sympathy and help throughout the long 
struggle to introduce his reform, it was his eldest 
brother, Matthew, who, more than any other, did 
him yeoman service ; and, after Matthew, the second 
brother, Edwin. 1 Of the five Hill brothers who 

1 "All the members of his family," says Mr John C. Francis 
in Notes and Queries, loth Series, No. 141, 8th September 1906, 
" were proud of Rowland and his scheme. There was no jealousy : 
each worked in harmony. The brothers looked at all times to each 


reached old age, it has been claimed for the eldest 
that, intellectually, he was the greatest. He had not, 
perhaps, the special ability which enabled my father 
to plan the postal reform, a measure which probably 
none of his brothers, gifted as in various ways all 
were, could have thought out, and brought to concrete 
form ; neither had the eldest the mathematical power 
which distinguished Rowland. But in all other respects 
Matthew stood first ; and that he was one of the 
wittiest, wisest, most cultivated, and, at the same 
time, most tender-hearted of men in an age especially 
rich in the type there can be no doubt. He was 
the first Birmingham man to go to the Bar, and 
for twenty-eight years was his native city's first 

The second brother, Edwin, was also an unusually 
clever man, and had a genius for mechanics which 
placed him head and shoulders above his brethren. 
His help in furthering the postal reform, as well as 
in other ways, was given " constantly and ably," said 
my father. Out of a very busy brain Edwin could 
evolve any machine or other contrivance required to 
meet the exigencies of the hour, as when, to make 
life less hard to one who was lame and rheumatic, 
he devised certain easily-swinging doors ; and when 
in 1840 he was appointed Supervisor of stamps at 
Somerset House he was quite in his element. Among 
other things, he invented an ingenious method, said 

other for counsel ; it was a perfect home, with the good old father as 
its head. Truly have his words been verified : * The union of my 
children has proved their strength.'" . . . "Never did a family 
so unite in working for the common good." 


the First Report of the Commissioners of Inland 
Revenue, by which the unwieldy, blank newspaper 
sheets which, as we have seen, were obliged, before 
being printed, to go to Somerset House to receive 
the impress of the duty stamp, were separated, turned 
over, and stamped with a speed and accuracy which 
had previously been considered unattainable. 1 He 
was also the inventor of the envelope-folding machine 
known as De La Rue's, and shown at the Great 
Exhibition of 1851. The process of embossing the 
Queen's head on the postal envelopes was likewise his 
invention ; and, further, he published two once well- 
known works the one on " Principles of Currency," 
the other on " Criminal Capitalists." He applied the 
latter title to those proprietors of houses and shops 
who knowingly let them out as shelters for criminals 
or depots for the sale of stolen goods ; and he pro- 
posed that, in order to check crime, these landlords 
should first be struck at 2 

1 "By his inventive mechanical skill," says Mr Francis, "he 
greatly improved the machinery [at Somerset House]. My father 
frequently had occasion to see him, and always found him ready 
to consider any suggestion made. Especially was this the case when 
he obtained permission for a stamp to be made with the sender's 
name round the rim. This was designed for him by Edwin Hill." 

2 Of Edwin's kindness of heart many instances are remembered. 
Of these, two, characteristic of the man, shall be selected. The 
head gardener at Bruce Castle lived in the (then) village of Totten- 
ham down a narrow entry at a corner of which stood one of the 
inevitable drink-traps which in this civilised country are permitted 
to be set up wherever the poor most do congregate. John simply 
could not pass that public-house. He was too good a man to 
be allowed to sink into a sot ; and eventually my uncle bethought 
him of building a gardener's cottage in a comer of the Castle 
grounds. The plan succeeded : John lived to a hale old age, and 


Matthew it was who, after many conversations 
with Rowland on the subject so frequently in the 
latter's thoughts, advised him to draw up his plan 
in pamphlet form. The advice was followed, and the 
detailed scheme laid before the adviser, who approved 
of it so highly that he suggested its publication by 
their mutual friend, Charles Knight. This was done, 
with what far - reaching effect we know. But my 
uncle's help did not end here. For him, who, self- 
aided, had won an influential position both at the Bar 
and in the brilliant, intellectual society of his day, it 
was easier than for his lesser known junior to have 
access to men likely to prove powerful advocates of 
the scheme and good friends to its author. Hence- 
forth, as his biographers remind us, the eldest brother 
devoted to the proposed reform all the time and 
labour he could spare from his own work. 1 He intro- 
duced Rowland to men of influence in both Houses 
of Parliament, to several of the chief journalists, and 
other leaders of public opinion. Their sympathy was 
soon enlisted, as was also that of many of my father's 

some of his children did well in the world. One afternoon, when my 
uncle was walking along the Strand on his way home from Somerset 
House after an arduous day's work, he saw a shabbily-dressed child 
sobbing bitterly. Now, Edwin Hill could never pass a little one 
in distress, and therefore stopped to ask what was the matter. The 
child had wandered from home, and was lost. The address it gave 
was at some distance, and in quite an opposite direction from that 
in which my uncle was bound. Most men would have made over 
the small waif to the first policeman who came in sight. But not 
this man. He took the wearied mite in his arms, carried it home, 
and placed it in its anxious mother's arm. 

1 "Matthew Davenport Hill," p. 142. By his daught< 
R. and F. Hill. 

Facsimile of Manuscript Page (in 'Sir ROWLAND HILL'S handwriting) of the Draft of 
his Pamphlet on Post Office Reform. See 3rd Edition (1837) page- 49. 

A fr, +***. *~ 


To Jace p. 96. 


own friends, and, ere long, that of the great majority 
of the nation when once the merits of the plan came 
to be understood. 

When, in 1834, Rowland Hill joined the Associa- 
tion formed for the total abolition of the odious 
"taxes on knowledge" there was a duty of is. 6d. 
on every advertisement ; a paper duty at ijd. the 
Ib. ; and the newspaper stamp duty was at its 
highest 4d. This last' burden undoubtedly a war- 
tax was reduced, once more to id. only in 1835, 
when we had been at peace for twenty years. So 
easy is it to lay a war-tax on the nation : so difficult 
to take it off again. Weighted after this fashion, how 
could journalistic enterprise prosper ? The Association 
was of opinion that if the Press could be cheapened 
newspapers would increase, and advertisements 
multiply, while the fiscal produce of journalism would 
be as large as ever. In estimating this probable 
expansion Rowland Hill applied a principle on which 
he subsequently relied in reference to postal reform, 
namely, that the increased consumption of a cheapened 
article in general use makes up for the diminished 

The Revenue for the financial year which ended 
with March 1836 had yielded a large surplus ; and a 
reduction of taxation was confidently looked for. Thus 
the time seemed ripe for the publication of my father's 
views upon the postal question ; and he set to work to 
write that slighter, briefer edition of his pamphlet 
which was intended for private circulation only. 

It was in this year also that he made the 
acquaintance of one of the greatest of all those many 

9 8 


in number who helped to carry his proposed scheme 
into accomplished fact Robert Wallace of Kelly, 
Greenock's first Member of Parliament and the 
pioneer postal reformer of the nineteenth century. 
From the time Mr Wallace entered Parliament, at 
the General Election which followed the passing of 
the great Reform Bill of 1832, he took the deepest 
interest in postal matters, and strove to reform the 
Department with a persistency which neither ridicule 
could weary nor opposition defeat. He was in the 
field two years before Rowland Hill ; and while thus 
unconsciously preparing the way for another man, 
was able to accomplish several useful reforms on his 
own account. 

In 1833 Mr Wallace proposed that postage 
should be charged by weight instead of by number 
of enclosures, thereby anticipating my father as 
regards that one suggestion. But nothing came of 
the proposal. He was more fortunate when moving 
for leave to throw open to public competition the 
contract for the construction of mail-coaches, which, 
when adopted, led to an annual saving of over 
;i 7,000. He also secured the appointment of a 
Commission of Inquiry into the management of the 
Post Office. The Commission was established in 
1835, continued to work till 1838, issued ten Reports, 1 

1 In the Ninth of which was embodied the Commissioners' 
examination of Rowland Hill made in February 1837. It is curious 
that even these able men, when discussing the plan with its author, 
spoke with most hesitation of that detail of whose wisdom so many 
officials were more than doubtful, yet which, from the first, never 
presented any real difficulty the practicability of prepayment.- 
"Life/'i. 274. 


and by its untiring efforts was, as my father always 
maintained, justly entitled to much of the credit of 
his own later success. Mr Wallace was, of course, 
to the fore in the Commission, and gave valuable 
evidence in favour of the establishment of day mails, 
which subsequently formed a feature of Rowland Hill's 
plan, and was eventually carried into effect with great 
advantage to the public and to the Revenue. To Mr 
Wallace we also owe the boon of registration of letters. 
He likewise pleaded for a reduction of postal rates, 
and of more frequent communication between different 
centres of population. In Parliament, during the 
session of 1836, and in the last speech he made there 
before the publication of Rowland Hill's pamphlet, he 
urged the abandonment of the manifestly unjust rule 
of charging postage not according to the geographical 
distance between one place and another, but accord- 
ing to the length of the course a letter was compelled 
to take. 1 As regards the question of reduced postal 
rates, he said : "It would be proper not to charge more 
than 3d. for any letter sent a distance of 50 miles ; 
for 100 miles, 4d. ; 200 miles, 6d. ; and the highest 
rate of postage ought not to be more than 8d. or 
9d. at most." 2 

A detailed plan of wholesale reform (as was my 
father's) Mr Wallace never had, and he no more 
dreamed of postage stamps though the suggestion 
of these has been sometimes attributed to him as 

1 As we have seen, in the chapter on " The Old Postal System," 
Sir Walter Scott has made a somewhat biting remark upon the " few 
pence " which the Post Office added to its revenue on letters which 
were sent a long round in order to meet Departmental convenience. 

2 "Hansard," xxxv. (2nd Series), 422. 


well as to other men or of prepayment than he did 
of uniformity of rate. He was an older man than 
Rowland Hill, and of higher social standing ; yet was 
he so incapable of jealousy or other petty meanness, 
that when the younger man, on completion of his 
scheme, laid it before the veteran Scotsman, the 
latter threw aside all other plans and suggestions, 
took up the only practicable reform, and worked 
for it as heartily as if it had been his own. 

To Mr Wallace every would-be postal reformer 
turned with unerring instinct as to his best friend ; 
and it was through the instrumentality of this public 
benefactor that Rowland Hill had been furnished with 
sundry Parliamentary Blue Books containing those 
statistics and other valuable facts, mastery of which 
was essential to the completion of his pamphlet, 
since it was necessary to understand the old system 
thoroughly before destroying it. 

" As I had never yet been within the walls of any 
post office," wrote my father of Mr Wallace's friendly 
act, " my only sources of information for the time 
consisted of those heavy Blue Books, in which invalu- 
able matter too often lies hidden amidst heaps of 
rubbish. Into some of these [books] I had already 
dipped ; but Mr Wallace, having supplied me by 
post with an additional half-hundred-weight of raw 
material, 1 I now commenced that systematic study, 

1 "Raw material by the half-hundred-weight" and "by post" in 
non-prepayment days is suggestive of heavy demands upon my 
father's purse. But no demand was made. Mr Wallace's frank as 
an M.P. would cause the packages he sent to be carried free of 
charge. It was literally a cabful of books which arrived, thus adding 
yet another item to the oft-quoted list of huge things which could 


analysis, and comparison which the difficulty of my 
self-imposed task rendered necessary." 

Basing his calculations on the information drawn 
from these and other volumes, Rowland Hill found 
that, after the reduction of taxation in 1823, the price 
of soap fell by an eighth, tea by a sixth, silk goods 
by a fifth, and coffee by a fourth. The reduction in 
price was followed by a great increase of consumption, 
the sale of soap rising by a third, and that of tea by 
almost half. Of silk goods the sale had more than 
doubled, and of coffee more than tripled. Cotton 
goods had declined in cost during the previous twenty 
years by nearly a half, and their sale was quadrupled. 1 

In his pamphlet Rowland Hill dwelt upon this 
fact of increased consumption following on decreased 
price. It was clear, then, that the taxes for remission 
should be those affording the greatest relief to the 

"go free" when sent by a member of the privileged classes. One 
trembles to think what would have been the charge to one of the 

1 After the adoption of free trade the prices of foreign produce 
fell still further, and their consumption since Rowland Hill drew up 
his estimates has grown enormously. With increase of business 
following on increase of consumption, came necessarily increase of 
employment and of national prosperity. So also when the old 
postal system was abolished, and the business of the Department 
advanced by leaps and bounds, a very large addition had to be made 
to the number of employees. That fact is obvious, but another, 
perhaps because it is less obvious, is but little known. "The 
introduction of penny postage," wrote my father in 1869, "was 
really followed by a reduction in the hours, and an increase in the 
remuneration to nearly every man in the Department, save only 
the Postmaster - General and the Secretary "himself. In some 
quarters the reverse was erroneously believed to be the case. 
ii. 345. 


public accompanied with the least loss to the 
Revenue ; and that scrutiny should be made into 
the subject in order to discover which tax, or taxes, 
had failed to grow in productiveness with increase 
of population and prosperity. The test showed that, 
whereas between 1815 and 1835 the nation had 
added six millions to its numbers, and that trade 
had largely increased, the postal revenue was rather 
smaller in the later than in the earlier year. During 
the same period the revenue from the stage-coaches 
had grown by 128 per cent. In France, where the 
postal charges were more reasonable, the revenue 
of the Department had, in the same twenty years, 
increased by 80 per cent. 

Reform in our own postal system was obviously 
a necessity. 

But the fiscal loss to the country, as shown in 
the state of our postal revenue, serious as it was, 
seemed to Rowland Hill a lesser evil than the bar, 
artificial and harmful, raised by the high charges on 
correspondence, to the moral and intellectual progress 
of the people. If put upon a sound basis, the Post 
Office, instead of being an engine for the imposition 
of an unbearable tax, would become a powerful 
stimulus to civilisation. 

Still delving among the Parliamentary Blue 
Books, he further gathered that the cost of the 
service rendered that is, of the receipt, conveyance, 
and distribution of each ordinary missive sent from 
post town to post town within the United Kingdom- 
averaged T^th 5 f a penny only ; tV^ths going to 
conveyance, and ^jths to the receipt and delivery, 


collection of postage, etc. Also that the cost of 
conveyance for a given distance being generally in 
direct proportion to the weight carried, and a news- 
paper or franked letter weighing about as much as 
several ordinary letters, the average expense of con- 
veying a letter chargeable with postage must be still 
lower, probably some y^ths of a penny : a conclusion 
supported by the well-known fact, already alluded 
to, 1 that the chargeable letters weighed, on an 
average, one fourth only of the entire mail. 

He also found that the whole cost of the mail- 
coach service for one journey between London and 
Edinburgh was only ^5 a day. 2 The average load 
of the mail diurnally carried being some six hundred- 

1 Chap. i. p. 50. 

2 " When at length I obtained precise information, I found that 
in taking care not to make my estimate too low, I had made it 
considerably too high ; and I think the history of this rectification 
too curious and characteristic to be omitted. Two years later, the 
Parliamentary Committee appointed to consider my plan ordered, at 
my suggestion, a Return on the subject, when, to my surprise and 
amusement, the Report of the Post Office gave as the cost of the 
mail the exact sum estimated by me viz., ^5. Struck with this 
coincidence, the more so as I had intentionally allowed for possible 
omission, I suggested the call for a Return in detail, and, this being 
given, brought down the cost to ^ 8s. yf d. In the Return, how- 
ever, I discovered an error, viz., that the charge for guards' wages 
was that for the double journey instead of the single ; and when this 
point was adjusted in a third Return, the cost sank to ^3, 195. yfd. 
When explanation of the anomaly was asked for, it was acknowledged 
by the Post Office authorities that my estimate had been adopted 
wholesale." (Rowland Hill in the " Appendix to the Second Report 
of the Select Committee on Postage, 1838," pp. 257-259.) In 
estimating the real cost of a letter between London and Edinburgh 
we must therefore seek for a fraction still smaller than the one 
indicated by my father's calculations. 


weight, the cost of each hundred-weight was there- 
fore 1 6s. 8d. Taking the average weight of a letter 
at a quarter of an ounce, its cost of carriage for the 
400 miles was but ^th part of a penny in the 
light of Rowland Hill's amended estimate actually 
less. Yet the postage exacted for even the lightest 
"single" letter was is. 3^d. The ninth part of a 
farthing the approximate cost of conveyance is a 
sum too small to be appreciable, and impossible to 
collect. Therefore, " if the charge for postage be 
made proportionate to the whole expense incurred 
in the receipt, transit, and delivery of the letter, and 
in the collection of its postage, it must be made 
uniformly the same from every post town to every 
other post town in the United Kingdom." 1 In 
other words, "As it would take a ninefold weight to 
make the expense of transit amount to one farthing, 
it follows that, taxation apart, the charge ought to 
be precisely the same for every packet of moderate 
weight, without reference to the number of its 
enclosures." 1 

The custom of charge by distance seemed self- 
condemned when a simpler mode was not only practi- 
cable but actually fairer. Now, with increase of the 
number of letters the cost of each was bound to 
diminish ; and with reduction of postage, especially 
the great reduction which seemed easy of attainment, 
increase of number could not fail to follow. 

The simple incident of the falling apple is said to 
have suggested to Newton the theory of gravitation. 
So also the discovery that the length of a letter's 
1 "Post Office Reform," p. 19. 


journey makes no appreciable difference to the cost of 
that journey led Rowland Hill to think of uniformity 
of rate ; and in that portion of his "Life" which is 
autobiographic he said that the " discovery " that such 
a rate would approach nearer to absolute justice than 
any other that could be fixed upon was " as startling 
to myself as it could be to any one else, and was the 
basis of the plan which has made so great a change in 
postal affairs" (i. 250). 

Mention has already been made of the time- 
wasting and costly mode in which, during or after 
delivery of the letters, the postage had to be collected, 
necessarily in coin of the realm. In rural districts 
the postman's journey, when twofold, doubled the 
cost of its delivery, its distance, and its time-dura- 
tion. The accounts, as we have seen, were most 
complicated, and complication is only too apt to 
spell mismanagement, waste, and fraud. Simplicity 
of arrangement was imperative. But simplicity could 
only be attained by getting rid of the complications. 
The work must be changed. Time must be saved, 
and unprofitable labour be done away with. But 
how ? By abolishing the tiresome operations of 
"candling" and of making the "calculations" (of 
postal charge) now inscribed on every letter ; by 
expediting ^the deliveries, and by other devices. 
Above all, the public should learn to undertake its 
due share of work, the share non- performance of 
which necessitated the complications, and swelled the 
expenses. That is, the sender of the letter should 
pay for its transit before the Post Office incurred any 
cost in connection with it, only, as under the existing 


system and in numberless cases, to meet with a refusal 
on the part of the should-be receiver to accept it. 

In other words, prepayment must be made the 
rule. Prepayment would have the effect of ''simplify- 
ing and accelerating the proceedings of the Post Office 
throughout the kingdom, and rendering them less 
liable to error and fraud. In the central Metropolitan 
Office there would be no letters to be taxed, no 
examination of those taxed by others ; no accounts to 
be made out against the deputy postmasters for letters 
transmitted to them, nor against the letter-carriers. 
There would be no need of checks, no necessity to 
submit to frauds and numberless errors for want of 
means to prevent or correct them. In short, the 
whole of the financial proceedings would be reduced to 
a single, accurate, and satisfactory account, consisting 
of a single item per day, with each receiver and each 
deputy postmaster." 1 

Distribution would thenceforth be the letter-carriers' 
only function ; and thus the first step towards the 
acceleration of postal deliveries would be secured. 
And while considering this last point, there came into 
Rowland Hill's mind the idea of that now common 
adjunct to everybody's hall-door the letter-box. If 
the postman could slip his letters through a slit in the 
woodwork, he need not wait while the bell or knocker 
summoned the dilatory man or maid ; and his round 
being accomplished more expeditiously, the letters 
would be received earlier. 2 The shortening of the 

1 " Post Office Reform," pp. 24, 25. 

2 This proposal was by no means received at the outset with 
universal favour. When the public was notified, after Government's 


time consumed on the round would unquestionably 
facilitate the introduction of those hourly deliveries in 
thickly populated and business districts which formed 
part of the plan of postal reform. 

How best to collect the prepaid postage had next 
to be decided ; and among other things, Rowland 
Hill bethought him of the stamped cover for news- 
papers proposed by his friend Charles Knight three 
years before, but never adopted ; and, finally, of the 
loose adhesive stamp which was his own device. 
The description he gave of this now familiar object 
reads quaintly at the present day. " Perhaps this 
difficulty " - of making coin payments at a post 
office " might be obviated by using a bit of 
paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and 
covered at the back with a glutinous wash which, 
by applying a little moisture, might be attached to 
the letter." l 

The disuse of franks and the abandonment of 
illicit conveyance, the breaking up of one long letter 
into several shorter ones, and the certain future use 
to be made of the post for the distribution of those 
circulars and other documents which either went by 
different channels or were altogether withheld, 2 should 

acceptance of the plan of postal reform, of the advisability of 
setting up letter - boxes, many people the majority, no doubt 
adopted the suggestion as a matter of course. But others objected, 
some of them strongly ; and one noble lord wrote in high indignation 
to the Postmaster-General to ask if he actually expected him, Lord 
Blank, " to cut a hole in his mahogany door." 

1 " Post Office Reform," pp. 45, 94-96. 

2 Among these he included small orders, letters of advice, 
remittances, policies of insurance, letters enclosing patterns, letters 


cause the number of missives to increase enormously. 
Although, were the public, in accordance with its 
practice in other cases, to expend no more in postage 
than before, the loss to the nett Revenue should be 
but small. Even were it to be large, the powerful 
stimulus given by easy communication and low- 
priced postage to the productive power of the 
country, and the consequent increase of revenue in 
other departments, would more than make up for 
the deficiency. On all these grounds, then, the 
adoption of the plan must be of incalculable 

The uniform rate of a penny the half -ounce 
ought to defray the cost of letter-carriage, and 
produce some 200 per cent, profit. My father 
originally proposed a penny the ounce ; and thirty- 
three years later, being then in retirement, he 
privately advised the Government of the day to 
revert to the ounce limit. His suggestion was 
adopted ; but the limit has since been brought up to 
four ounces a reduction which, had it been proposed 
in 1837, must inevitably have ensured the defeat of 
the postal reform. 

As regards the speedy recovery of the nett 
Revenue appearances seem to indicate that he 
was over-sanguine ; the gross Revenue not reaching 

between country attorneys and their London agents, docu- 
ments connected with magisterial and county jurisdiction, and with 
local trusts and commissions for the management of sewers, 
harbours, roads, schools, chanties, etc., notices of meetings, of 
elections, etc., prices current, catalogues of sales, prospectuses, and 
other things which, at the present time, are sent by post as a matter 
of course. 

Prom a Pliotograph by Messrs. Whiteley & Co. 


Where "Post Office Reform" was written. A group of people stand 
opposite the house. 

To face p. 109. 


its former amount till 1851, the nett till I862. 1 The 
reasons were several, but among them can hardly be 
counted faulty calculations on Rowland Hill's part. 
We shall read more about this matter in a later 
chapter. Meanwhile, one cause, and that a main 
one, shall be mentioned. As railways multiplied, 
and mail - coaches ceased to ply, the expenses of 
conveyance grew apace. 2 

Under the increased burden the old system, had 
it endured much longer, must have collapsed. The 
railway charges for carrying the mails, unlike the 
charges for carrying passengers and goods, have 
been higher, weight for weight, than the charges by 
the mail - coaches, and the tendency in later years 
has by no means made towards decrease. 

The pamphlet was entitled " Post Office Reform : 
Its Importance and Practicability." 8 Use of the words 
" Penny Postage " was carefully avoided, because a 
reformer, when seeking to convert to his own way 
of thinking a too-often slow-witted public, is forced 
to employ the wisdom of the serpent in conjunction, 

1 Cobden was even more optimistic. In a letter to Rowland 
Hill he said : "I am prepared to find that the revenue from the 
penny postage exceeds, the first year, any former income of the Post 

s It was in 1838 that the mails began to go by rail. 

3 This was not my father's first pamphlet. In 1832 he published 
" Home Colonies: Sketch of a Plan for the Gradual Extinction of 
Pauperism and for the Diminution of Crime." The pamphlet 
advocated the settlement of able-bodied paupers on waste lands 
a proposal frequently revived by different writers by the cultivation 
of which the men would be made self-supporting, and the State be 
saved their charge. The successful working of similar experiments 
in Belgium and Holland was instanced as proof that the theory 
was not mere Utopianism. 


not only with the gentleness of the dove, but also 
with something of the cunning of the fox or weasel. 
Thus canny George Stephenson, when pleading for 
railways, forbore to talk of locomotives running at 
the tremendous rate of 12 miles an hour lest his 
hearers should think he was qualifying for admission 
to a lunatic asylum. He therefore modestly hinted 
at a lower speed, the quicker being supposed to be 
exceptional. So also Rowland Hill, by stating the 
arguments for his case clearly, yet cautiously, sought 
to lead his readers on, step by step, till the seem- 
ing midsummer madness of a uniform postal rate 
irrespective of distance should cease to startle, and, 
instead, be accepted as absolutely sane. 

In this way he engaged the attention, among 
others, of the once famous Francis Place, tailor 
and politician, to whom he sent a copy of " Post 
Office Reform." Mr Place began its perusal with 
an audible running accompaniment of " Pish ! " and 
" Pshaw ! " varied by an occasional remark that the 
"hitch" which must inevitably destroy the case 
would presently appear. But as he read, the audible 
monosyllabic marginal notes ceased, and when he 
turned the last page, he exclaimed in the needlessly 
strong language of the day : "I'll be damned if 
there is a hitch after all ! " and forthwith became a 
convert. Leigh Hunt expressed his own sentiments 
in happier form when he declared that the pamphlet's 
reasoning " carries us all along with it as smoothly 
as wheel on railroad." 

Through the kindness of Mr Villiers, the long-time 
senior Member for Wolverhampton, the pamphlet, 


while still in manuscript, was confidentially submitted 
to the Government. The author, through his friend, 
expressed his willingness to let them have the entire 
credit of introducing the plan if they would accept 
it. Otherwise he reserved the right to lay it before 
the public. Many years after, Mr Villiers wrote of 
the satisfaction he felt that the measure was left to 
the unbiassed judgment of the people, for, after all, 
the Government had not the courage to accept the 
offer, and the only outcome of a rather pleasant 
interview, in January 1837, with the Chancellor of 
the Exchequer, Mr Spring Rice, was the suggestion 
made by him and adopted by Rowland Hill, that 
the penny rate should be charged not on an ounce, 
but on half an ounce to the cautious keeper of the 
national purse seemingly a less startling innovation. 

That the plan should be treated, not as a party 
question, but strictly on its merits, was its author's 
earnest, oft-repeated desire. Nor could it be properly 
regarded from a political aspect, since it counted 
among its advocates in the two Houses, and outside 
them, members of both parties. Yet, notwithstanding 
this support, and the fact that the friends of the 
proposed reform daily grew more numerous, the best 
part of three years was consumed in converting to 
recognition of its merits not only a fairly large portion 
of the official world, but the Prime Minister himself. 
However, the same Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, 
it was who declared that it was madness to contem- 
plate as possible the abolition of the Corn Laws. 

" Post Office Reform " made no small sensation. 
It was widely read and discussed, as indeed was but 


natural, seeing how thoroughly dissatisfied with the 
old system nearly every one outside the official circle 
was. The proposed reform was, as a rule, heartily 
approved, although by some would-be clever people 
it was mercilessly ridiculed ; and a writer in the 
Quarterly Review assailed it, declaring, among other 
things, that " prepayment by means of a stamp or 
stamped cover is universally admitted to be quite the 
reverse of convenient, foreign to the habits of the 
people," etc. yet another illustration of the folly of 
indulging in prophecy unaccompanied by knowledge. 
He further professed to see in the proposal " only 
a means of making sedition easy."! 1 

To this attack Matthew Hill made a scathing 
reply in the Edinburgh Review, using, to flagelate 
the foe, the ready wit and unanswerable logic of 
which he was a master. Then passing to the 
financial side of the question, he pointed out that 
the temporary diminution of income ought to be 
regarded as an outlay. The loss, he argued, would 
be slight in comparison with the object in view. 
Even if the annual deficit were one million during 
ten years, that would be but half what the country 
had paid for the abolition of slavery ; and that pay- 
ment was made with no prospect of money return. 

i No. 128, p. 531. The author of the diatribe was John Wilson 
Croker, whose name is preserved from oblivion by Macaulay's fierce 
criticism in one of his famous " Essays," that on Croker's edition of 
Boswell's "Life of Johnson" criticism which in severity rivals that 
on the poet Montgomery in the same series. Many years later 
Gladstone said to Dr Hill : " You have succeeded in doing what 
Macaulay attempted to do, and failed you have suppressed Croker." 
(Mrs Lucy Crump's " Letters of George Birkbeck Hill.") 


Should hope of ultimate profit fail, a substituted tax 
might be imposed ; and were it asked, what tax ? 
the answer should be, any certain that none could 
operate so fatally on all other sources of revenue as 
the present postal tax. 

Time was on the side of the reformer, and before 
long the public, having digested both the pamphlet 
and the debates thereon, took up the question with 
enthusiasm. In the largest city in the kingdom as 
in the smallest hamlet, meetings were convened in 
support and furtherance of the proposed reform. 
Within twelve months two thousand petitions were 
presented to Parliament, causing, on one occasion, a 
curious scene. Mr Scholefield, having laid on the 
table a petition from Birmingham, praying for adop- 
tion of the penny postage plan, the Speaker called 
on all members who had charge of similar petitions 
to bring them up. At once a " crowd " rose to present 
them amid cheering on all sides. 

The number of signatures reached a quarter of 
a million ; and as many of the petitions proceeded 
from Town Councils, Chambers of Commerce, and 
other such Corporations, a single signature in many 
instances represented a considerable number of 

Grote, the historian of Greece, and an earnest 
worker for the reform, presented a petition. One 
from the city contained over 12,500 signatures, bore 
the names of the Lord Mayor and many London 
merchants, and was filled in twelve hours. In the 
Upper House, the Lord Radnor of the time, an 
earnest friend to reforms of many sorts, presented 



no fewer than forty petitions. The signatures 
were of many classes, all sects, and both political 

In the City, on the proposal of Mr Moffatt, after- 
wards Member for Southampton, the " Mercantile 
Committee" was formed. Its founder, whom Row- 
land Hill has described as "one of my most zealous, 
steady, and efficient supporters," threw himself with 
great earnestness into the formation of this Com- 
mittee, raising funds, and gathering together the 
able men, London merchants and others, who became 
its members. Its principal aim was to collect evidence 
in favour of the plan ; and to its ceaseless energy 
much of the success of the movement was due. Mr 
Ashurst, father to a late Solicitor to the Post Office, 
was requested to become Solicitor to the Committee. 
He accepted the invitation, declined to receive re- 
muneration for his services, and worked with un- 
flagging industry. 1 Mr Bates, of the house of Baring 
Brothers, acted as Chairman ; Mr Cole as Secretary. 
In addition to the above, and to Mr Moffatt, may be 

1 Mr Ashurst, as we are reminded in Mr Bolton King's " Mazzini " 
(pp. 88 and 104), was a solicitor who had been a friend of Robert 
Owen, and who made Mazzini's acquaintance at the time of the once 
famous Governmental letter-opening scandal which agitated the far- 
off 'forties, and caused Carlyle, Buncombe, Shiel, Macaulay, and 
many more people both in the House of Commons and out of it 
to denounce a practice which, as was only too truly said, through 
sending "a warning to the Bourbons, helped to entrap hapless 
patriots," meaning the brothers Bandiera. The agitation led to 
the abolition of the custom of opening private letters entrusted for 
conveyance to the Post Office; or did so for a while. It is a 
custom that is very old, and has not lacked for apologists, as what 
evil custom ever did? During Bishop Atterbury's trial in 1723, a 


mentioned the names of Messrs William Ellis, James 
Pattison, L. P. Wilson, John Dillon, 1 John Travers, 
J. H. Gladstanes, and W. A. Wilkinson all warm 
supporters of the plan from the beginning. 

Mr Cole excelled in the invention of pictorial 
devices of the sort which are far more likely to 
convert the average citizen to faith in a newly 
propounded reform than all the arguments, however 
able, that were ever spoken or written ; and are 
therefore most valuable. He drew, for instance, a 
mail-coach with a large amount of postal matter piled, 
by artistic licence, on the roof instead of inside "the 
boot." Six huge sacks contained between them 2,296 
newspapers weighing 273 Ibs.; a seventh sack, as large 
as any of its fellows, held 484 franked letters, and 
weighed 47 Ibs. ; while a moderate-sized parcel was 
filled with Stamp Office documents. They were all 
labelled "go free." A bag of insignificant dimen- 
sions leant up against one of the sacks. It held 
1,565 ordinary letters, weighed 34 Ibs., and was 
marked "pay ^93." This tiny packet paid for all 
the rest! Cole was too sensible a man to make use 

Post Office clerk deposed on oath that some letters which were offered 
in evidence were facsimiles made of actual documents stopped, 
opened, and copied in the office " by direction " ; and on Atterbury's 
asking if the witness had received warrant for the act, the Lords 
put in the plea of public expediency, and the enquiry came to an 

1 Mr John Dillon, of the once famous old firm of Morrison, 
Dillon, & Co., was probably one of the last wealthy London 
merchants who lived above their place of business. The Dillons 
were hospitable people, and their dwelling was commodious and 
beautifully furnished ; but not many merchant princes of the present 
day would choose as a residential quarter Fore Street, E.G. 


of an illustration which, if untrue, could only have 
inspired ridicule. His figures were absolutely correct, 
and represented the actual proportions of the mail 
matter carried from London to Edinburgh on 2nd 
March 1838. His Brobdingnagian " single" and 
Lilliputian " double " letters, whose names are indica- 
tive of their relative size, were one evening handed 
round the House of Commons with telling effect. 
They were, of course, designed to satirise the old 
system practice of " taxing" letters according to 
number of enclosures. Both had passed through the 
post that day, the giant having been charged just half 
what was paid on the dwarf. 

In all the large centres of population the great 
mercantile houses were foremost among those who 
took up the good cause, and the Press also threw 
itself into the struggle with much heartiness except 
in those cases where the cue given was attack ! 
Happily these dissentients were soon outnumbered 
and outvoiced. A few journals, indeed, achieved 
marvellously sudden conversions behaviour which 
even in the present more enlightened days is not 
absolutely unknown. Twenty-five London and eighty- 
seven provincial papers there were far fewer papers 
then than there are now supported the proposed 
reform, and their championship found an echo in some 
of the foreign Press. In London the Times (after 
a while), the now defunct Morning Chronicle, and 
the Spectator were pre-eminent. Mr Rintoul, founder 
and first editor of the Spectator, not only championed 
the reform long before its establishment, but continued 
to give the reformer constant support through trials 


and triumphs till 1858, when, to the great loss of 
journalism and of all good causes, death severed Mr 
Rintoul's connection with that paper, 1 

Outside London, the Scotsman then renowned for 
its advanced views the Manchester Guardian, the 
Liverpool Mercury, and the Leeds Mercury then in 

1 Mr Rintoul was fortunate in being father to a devoted daughter 
who, from an early age, gave him valuable assistance in his editorial 
work. While still a young girl, and for the space of some few weeks 
when he was suffering from severe illness, she filled the editorial 
chair herself, and did so with ability. At the present day we are 
frequently assured by people who did not live in the times they 
criticise so freely that the " early Victorian " women were inferior to 
those of the present day. The assertion is devoid of truth. The 
women of half a century and more ago were bright, witty, unaffected, 
better mannered and perhaps better read than their descendants, 
often highly cultivated. They dressed simply, not extravagantly 
happily for the bread-winning members of their family did not 
gamble, were self-reliant, original-minded, and not, as has been 
asserted, absurdly deferential to their male relations. Indeed, it is 
probable that there were, proportionately, quite as many henpecked 
husbands in the land as there are now. If in some ways the 
Victorian women had less liberty than have the women of to-day 
and travelled less, may it not, as regards the former case, have been 
partly because the community was not so rich as it is at the present 
time, and because the facilities for travel were fewer and the condi- 
tions harder? In intellectual power and noble aims the women 
of half a century ago were not inferior to those of to-day. Certain 
it is that the former gave less time to pleasure and more to self- 
culture, etc. There are to-day many women who lead noble, useful 
lives, but their generation does not enjoy a monopoly of all the 
virtues. To take but a few instances from the past : has any 
woman of the present time excelled in true nobility of character or 
usefulness of career Elizabeth Fry, first among female prison 
reformers ; Florence Nightingale, pioneer of the nursing sisterhood, 
and indefatigable setter to rights of muddle in Crimean War hospitals 
and stores; Caroline Herschel, distinguished astronomer; Mary 
Scmerville, author and scientist though three of these belong to a 


the hands of the well-known Baines family were, 
perhaps, especially active. Their support and that of 
other ably conducted provincial papers never varied, 
and to the end of his life Rowland Hill spoke grate- 
fully of the enlightened and powerful aid thus given. 

yet earlier generation and Barbara L. S. Bodichon, artist, foundress 
of Girton College, and originator of the Married Women's Property 
Act ? The modern woman is in many ways delightful, and is, as a 
rule, deservedly independent ; but it is not necessary to accompany 
insistence on that fact by cheap and unmerited sneers at former 
generations of the sex. It is also not amiss to ask if it was not the 
women of the past age who won for the women of the present the 
liberties these latter enjoy. 



BY the early summer of 1837 the agitation in favour 
of the postal reform was in full movement, and in the 
midst of it the old king, William IV., died. His 
youthful successor was speedily deluged with petitions 
in favour of penny postage. One of the first acts 
of her first Parliament was to appoint the Select 
Committee for which Mr Wallace had asked 
11 To enquire into the present rates and mode of 
charging postage, with a view to such a reduction 
thereof as may be made without injury to the 
revenue ; and for this purpose to examine especially 
into the mode recommended for charging and collect- 
ing postage in a pamphlet published by Mr Rowland 
Hill." Of this Committee, which did so much to 
help forward the postal reform, the doughty Member 
for Greenock was, of course, chosen as Chairman. 
The Committee sat for sixty - three days ; and in 
addition to the postal officials and those of the Board 
of Stamps and Taxes (Inland Revenue), examined 
Rowland Hill and over eighty other witnesses of 
various occupations and from different parts of the 

The story of their arduous labours is told at great 



length in Dr Birkbeck Hill's edition of my father's 
Autobiography. There is therefore no need to 
elaborate it here. The evidence told heavily against 
the existing postal system whose anomalies, absurdi- 
ties, and gross injustice have been described in the 
first chapter of this work and, with corresponding 
force, demonstrated the necessity for its reform. 1 

It might have been supposed that the Committee's 
careful and elaborate examination of Rowland Hill's 
plan, supported as it was by an unanswerable array 
of facts, would have sufficed to ensure its adoption. 
" He had yet to learn the vast amount of vis inertia 
existing in some Government Departments. The 
minds of those who sit in high places are sometimes 
wonderfully and fearfully made, and 'outsiders,' as 
he was destined to find, must be prepared to knock 
long and loudly at the outer door before they can 
obtain much attention." 

That the Post Office authorities would oppose 
the plan was a foregone conclusion. They fought 
against it in the strenuous fashion known metaphori- 
cally as " tooth and nail." The Postmaster-General 
of the day he who said that "of all the wild and 

1 The members in addition to Mr Wallace were Viscount 
Lowther, Lord Seymour, Sir Thomas Fremantle, and Messrs 
Warburton, Poulett Thomson, Raikes Currie, Morgan John 
O'Connell, Thornley, Chalmers, Pease, Mahony, Parker (Sheffield), 
George William Wood, and Villiers. Three of these Lord Seymour, 
Mr Parker, and Mr Thomson (afterwards Lord Sydenham) were 
opponents of the plan, but that their opposition was mainly official 
was evidenced when, the Government having adopted the plan of 
reform, all three became its advocates. "Life," i. 287. 

2 " The Jubilee of the Uniform Penny Postage," p. 18. By Pearson 
Hill, 1890. Cassell & Co. Ltd, 


visionary schemes which he had ever heard or read 
of it was the most extraordinary " l gave it as his 
opinion that if twelve times the number of letters 
were carried, the expenses of conveyance would 
become twelve times heavier a strange argument 
for an educated man to use. He also declared that 
with increase of correspondence the walls of the 
Post Office would burst a premonition which, not 
unnaturally, provoked Rowland Hill into asking 
whether the size of the building should be regulated 
by the amount of correspondence, or the amount of 
correspondence by the size of the building. 

The Secretary to the Post Office, Colonel 
Maberly, was apparently free from the dread of the 
possible effect of increased correspondence which 
exercised the minds of other post officials besides 
the Postmaster - General. The Secretary told the 
Committee he was sure that even if no charge were 
made people would not write more frequently than 
they did under the existing system ; and he predicted 
that the public would object to prepayment. He 
approved of a uniform rate, but apparently in theory 
only, as he added that he thought it quite impracti- 
cable. He doubted whether letter - smuggling 
to which practice Mr Peacock, Solicitor to the Post 
Office, and other officials made allusion as an evil 
on a very large scale would be much affected by 
the proposed reduction of postage, since "it cannot 
be reduced to that price that smugglers will not 
compete with the Post Office at an immense profit." 
He pronounced the scheme to be "fallacious, pre- 
1 " Hansard," xxxviii. 1462, 1464. 


posterous, utterly unsupported by facts, and resting 
entirely on assumption " ; prophesied its certain 
failure, if adopted, and said the revenue would not 
recover for forty or fifty years. 1 

Some of the officials made the rather humiliating 
confession that they should not know how to deal 
with the multitude of letters likely to follow a change 
of system, and a " breakdown " was so frequently 
predicted, that it was hard to avoid the suspicion 
that the wish was father to the thought. The dread 
expressed of this increase of correspondence is, in 
the light of these later days, unaccountable. " Has 
any one," pertinently asked my father, "ever heard 
of a commercial company afraid of an expected 
growth in its business ? " 

It was maintained that a fivefold increase of 
letters would necessitate a fivefold number of mail- 
coaches, and Rowland Hill was accused of having 
omitted this "fact" in his calculations. The object- 
tion was absurd. The coaches were by no means 
fully laden, many having very little to carry, and 
the chargeable letters, as we have seen, formed only 
a small portion of the entire mail. Twenty - four 
coaches left London every evening, each bearing its 
share of that small portion ; but had the whole of 
it been conveyed in one coach, its bulk would not 
have displaced a single passenger. 

1 " Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage," pp. 29, 
34, etc. The gross revenue which rather more than recovered in 
1851, was achieved on a four-and-three-quarters-fold increase of 
letters only, whereas the Postmaster -General said that recovery 
would require a twelvefold increase. Rowland Hill calculated that 
recovery would ensue on a five-and-three-quarters increase. 


Colonel (afterwards General) Colby, 1 indeed, told 
the Committee that his attention was first drawn to 
the desirability of cheapening postage while travelling 
all over the kingdom, when he had "observed that 
the mails and carriages which contained the letters 
formed a very stupendous machinery for the con- 
veyance of a very small weight ; that, in fact, if 
the correspondence had been doubled, trebled, or 
quadrupled, it could not have affected the expense 
of conveyance." 2 

To determine this question of the weight of 
the mails, the Committee caused a return to be made 
in the case of the coaches leaving London. The 
average was found to be only 463 Ibs. a little over 
a quarter of the weight which, according to Post 
Official estimates, a mail-coach would be capable of 
carrying. 3 

In the chapter on the old system we have seen 
the straits to which the poor were reduced when 
having to "take up" a letter which had come from 
distant relative or friend. Yet how eager was 
this class to enjoy the privilege possessed by those 

1 Director of the Ordnance Survey, a distinguished geologist, 
and an earnest worker in the cause of postal reform from quite 
an early date. He had lost his hands during the Napoleonic 
wars ; and when he dined at our house always brought his knife, 
fork, etc., and his manservant, who screwed them into place, and 
changed them when needful, a process which deeply interested us 
children. He did not, however, permit this serious loss to stand 
in the way of his leading an active and useful public career. 

2 " Third Report," p. 48. 

3 Ibid. p. 49. The Superintendent of the Mail-coaches con- 
sidered that each coach could carry 15 hundred-weight or 1680 


better off than themselves, was shown during the 
examination of Mr Emery, Deputy- Lieutenant for 
Somerset, and a Commissioner of Taxes, when he 
told the Committee that the poor people near Bristol 
had signed a petition for the reduction of postage, 
and that he " never saw greater enthusiasm." Testi- 
mony to a similar effect abounds in the Committee's 

That some, at least, of the public were not so 
alarmed at the prospect of prepayment as were the 
officials generally, is seen by the evidence of several 
witnesses who advised that it should be made com- 
pulsory. The public were also quick to appreciate 
the advantage of payment by stamps instead of 
money. Sir (then Mr) William Brown of Liverpool, 
said he had seen the demoralising effect arising 
from entrusting young men with money to pay for 
postage, which, under the existing arrangement, his 
house [of business] was frequently obliged to do. 
His view was corroborated by other witnesses. 1 

Mr Samuel Jones Loyd (afterwards Lord Over- 
stone) greatly regretted " that the post was ever 
taken as a field for taxation, and should be very 
glad to find that, consistently with the general 
interests of the revenue, which the Government has 
to watch over, they can effect any reduction in the 
total amount so received, or any reduction in the 
charges without diminishing the total amount." 

Lord Ashburton was of much the same opinion. 

Rowland Hill himself dissented from the view 

1 "Third Report," p. 42. 

2 Ibid. p. 27. 


generally and indeed still held that so long as the 
Department as a whole thrives, its funds may justly 
be applied to maintain special services which do not 
repay their own costs. On the contrary, he thought 
that every division of the service should be at least 
self-supporting, though he allowed that, for the sake 
of simplicity, extensions might be made where there 
was no immediate expectation of absolute profit. All 
beyond this he regarded as contrary to the true 
principles of free trade of the " Liberation of Inter- 
course," to use the later-day, and in this case more 
appropriate, phrase. Whenever, therefore, the nett 
revenue from the Post Office is too high for the 
interests of the public, the surplus, he maintained, 
should be applied to the multiplication of facilities in 
those districts in which, through the extent of their 
correspondence, such revenue is produced. 1 

Most of the Post Office chiefs examined by the 
Committee viewed with disfavour the proposal to 
" tax " letters by weight. An experiment had been 
made at the Office from which it was inferred that 
a greater number could be taxed in a given time on 
the plan in use than by charging them in pro- 
portion to the weight of each letter. The test, how- 
ever, was of little value because the weighing had 
not been made by the proposed half-ounce, but by 
the quarter- ounce scale ; and, further, because it was 
already the custom to put nearly every letter into the 
balance unless its weight was palpable to the hand. 2 

While some of the officials objected to uniformity 

1 "Post Office Reform," p. 55. 

2 "First Report," questions 1369, 1372, 


of rate as "unfair in principle," others thought well 
of it on the score that uniformity " would very much 
facilitate all the operations of the Post Office." 1 

But, admissions apart, the hostility to the plan was, 
on the part of the Post Office, unmistakable. This 
opposition rendered Rowland Hill's work all the 
harder. " My own examination," he says, " occupied 
a considerable portion of six days, my task being not 
only to state and enforce my own views, but to reply 
to objections raised by such of the Post Office authori- 
ties as were against the proposed reform. This list 
comprised with the exception of Mr Peacock, the 
Solicitor all the highest officials in the chief office ; 
and, however unfortunate their opposition, and how- 
ever galling I felt it at the time, I must admit on 
retrospect that, passing over the question of means 
employed, their resistance to my bold innovation was 
very natural. Its adoption must have been dreaded 
by men of routine, as involving, or seeming to involve, 
a total derangement of proceeding an overthrow of 
established order ; while the immediate loss of revenue 
inevitable from the manner in which alone the 
change could then be introduced (all gradual or 
limited reform having by that time been condemned 
by the public voice) a loss, moreover, greatly 
exaggerated in the minds of those who could not, 
or did not, see the means direct and indirect of 
its recuperation, must naturally have alarmed the 
appointed guardians of this branch of the national 

income." 2 

1 " Third Report," p. 34, etc. 

2 "Life," 1325-327. " 


Some members even of the Committee were 
opposed to essential features of the reform, so that 
it barely escaped, if not actual wreckage, serious 
maiming at their hands. " The divisions on the two 
most important of the divisions submitted to the 
Committee," wrote Rowland Hill, "and, indeed, the 
ultimate result of their deliberations, show that the 
efforts that had been made had all been needed." 1 

A resolution moved by Mr Warburton recom- 
mending the establishment of a uniform rate of inland 
postage between one post town and another resulted 
in a tie, and was only carried by the casting vote of 
the chairman, Mr Wallace. Mr Warburton further 
moving that in view of "any large reduction being 
made in the rates of inland postage, it would be 
expedient to adopt a uniform rate of one penny per 
half-ounce without regard to distance," the motion 
was rejected by six to three, the "aye" stalwarts 
being the mover, and Messrs Raikes Currie 2 and 
M. J. O'Connell. Then Mr Warburton, still man- 
fully striving, moved to recommend a uniform rate of 
three halfpence : the motion being again lost. The 
following day Mr Warburton returned to the charge, 
and urged the adoption of a twopenny uniform rate, 
rising by a penny for each additional half-ounce. 
This motion was not directly negatived like its pre- 
decessors, but was met by an amendment which was 
tantamount to a negative. Again the votes were 
equal ; and again the motion was carried by the 
casting vote of the chairman. 

1M Life," 1.325-327. 

2 Father to a later Postmaster-General. 


The rejected amendment was moved by Mr 
Thomson, who proposed that a draft report origina- 
ting with Lord Seymour should be adopted, the chief 
recommendations of which were the maintenance of 
the charge by distance, such rate to vary from id. 
(for under 15 miles) to is. (for above 200 miles), or 
of some similar scale. Had the Seymour amendment 
been adopted, " not only the recommendations for 
uniformity and decided reduction of postage would 
have been set aside, but also those for increased 
facilities, for the general use of stamps, and for charge 
by weight instead of by the number of enclosures." 
In fact, the old postal system would have been simply 
scotched, not killed and very mildly scotched, many 
of its worst features being retained. Yet this amend- 
ment would have gone forth as the recommendation 
of the Committee but for the casting vote of Mr 

It is but fair to Lord Seymour to say that, how- 
ever "erroneous in its reasonings on many points," 
the amendment yet contained passages justifying the 
reformer's views, "particularly as regards the evils 
which high rates of postage brought upon the poor, 
the vast extent of illicit conveyance, the evils of the 
frank system, and even many of the advantages of 
a uniform charge." Had the recommendations in the 
Seymour Report been prepared " two years before, 
almost every one of them would have been received 
as a grace ; but it was now too late, their sum total 
being altogether too slight to make any approach 

1 "Life,"i. 328. 


towards satisfying the expectations which had sub- 
sequently arisen." 

The adoption of a twopenny rate was not only 
contrary to Rowland Hill's plan, but actually rendered 
"strict uniformity impracticable, since reservation 
would have to be made in favour of the local penny 
rates then in existence which could not be raised 
without exciting overpowering dissatisfaction." 2 

" Seldom, I believe, has any committee worked 
harder," wrote my father, in after years. " Mr 
Wallace's exertions were unsparing, his toil incessant, 
and his zeal unflagging." The Times spoke but the 
truth when in its issue of 3ist May 1839, it said 
that the Post Office Inquiry was ''one conducted 
with more honesty and more industry than any 
ever brought before a Committee of the House of 
Commons." 3 

Yet how near it came to destroying the reform 

The third and concluding Report of the proceed- 
ings of this memorable Committee was entrusted for 
revision to the competent hands of Mr Warburton, 
who made of it a model Blue Book. "On all im- 
portant points," wrote Rowland Hill, "it gave to my 
statements and conclusions the sanction of its power- 
ful authority. Nevertheless, as the Committee had 
determined on the recommendation of a twopenny 
rate, the Report had to be framed in at least formal 

* "Life," 1.329. 

* Ibid. i. 330. 

8 The Times was now a hearty champion of the reform, and wrote 
uently and ably in support of it. 


accordance with this fact; though both Mr Wallace, 
in whose name it went to the Committee, and Mr 
Warburton, its author, were strongly in favour of the 
penny rate. A careful perusal of the document, how- 
ever, will show that, though the twopenny rate is 
formally recommended, the penny rate is the one 
really suggested for adoption. In this sense it was 
understood by the public ; and, to my knowledge, it 
was wished that it should be so understood." 1 

Outside the official circle, opinion, though mainly 
favourable, was still a good deal divided ; and the 
dismal prophecies which always precede the passing 
into law of any great reform had by no means ceased 

1 " Life," i. 337. During the writing of this Report my father had 
frequent occasion to call upon its author in order to check elaborate 
calculations and to put important questions in the clearest light on 
the principle, apparently, that two heads, when each is mathe- 
matical, are better than one. " Philosopher Warburton," as he was 
sometimes called, was one of the best friends the postal reform had. 
He was a man of wide influence, and an indefatigable worker. 
Originally a timber merchant, he abandoned commerce for science 
his favourite pursuits being mathematics and astronomy. He was a 
member of the Political Economy Club from its foundation in 1821 
till his death in 1858; he was one of the founders of the London 
University, and served on its first council; and he represented 
Bridport, Dorset, in successive Parliaments from 1825 to 1841. It 
is often asserted that a recluse, bookworm, or scientist cares for 
nothing outside his own four walls or lower than the starry heavens. 
In this case never was saying more completely falsified. Mr 
Warburton was unusually public - spirited, a prominent Parlia- 
mentarian, and a lucid writer. When my father visited him, he 
was always received in his friend's sanctum, the dining-room, 
whose appearance never altered. Dining there would have been 
impossible, although the table was always set out at full length. 
It was entirely covered with piles of volumes, most of them Blue 
Books. The sideboard, save for one small space reserved for 


to be heard. It is therefore not altogether surprising 
that even so clear-sighted a man as Sydney Smith 
whose wisdom is too seldom remembered by those 
who think of him only as a wit should have laughed 
at "this nonsense of a penny post." But when the 
" nonsense" had had three years of trial he wrote to 
its author, uninvited, a letter of generous appreciation. 
Miss Martineau, as an able journalist and political 
economist, gave valuable assistance to the postal 
reform. To read her statesmanlike letters to my 
father, even after the lapse of over half a century, is 
indeed a " liberal education." In these, when writing 
of the old system, she employed several notable 
phrases, of which, perhaps, one of the finest was that 
describing the barrier raised by heavy postal rates 
between severed relatives as "the infliction which 
makes the listening parent deaf and the full-hearted 
daughter dumb." In a letter, written shortly before 
penny postage became a reality, to him whom in her 
Autobiography she calls "the most signal social bene- 
factor of our time," she told how "we are all putting 
up our letter-boxes on our hall doors with great glee." 
In the same letter she described the joy of the many 
poor "who can at last write to one another as if they 
were all M.P.s ! " As if they were all M.P.s / What 

astronomical instruments, was similarly loaded, as were also all 
the chairs but one in addition to that reserved for Mr Warburton's 
use. The floor was likewise piled with books, very narrow passages 
only being left to enable people to move about; and the whole 
place bore a look upon it as of "the repose of years." When, 
after talking a while, Mr Warburton resumed his pen, my father 
had time, during his several visits, to read the whole of one of 
Macaulay's brilliant and then newly-published Essays in a volume 
which always occupied a particular spot on a table. 


a comment, what a, may be, unconsciously satirical 
reflection on the previous state of things ! l 

The great O'Connell gave to the postal reform the 
aid of his powerful influence both within and without 
Parliament. He was a friend of Matthew Davenport 
Hill, and at an early stage of the agitation assured 
my uncle of his hearty appreciation of the plan. 
O'Connell himself would have proposed the Parlia- 
mentary Committee on Postage, of which, as we have 
seen, one of his sons was made a member, had not 
Mr Wallace already taken the initiative ; and, later, 
when the Bill was before the House, four of the 
O'Connells, headed by their chieftain, went into the 
"Ayes" lobby, together with other members from 
the Green Isle. The proposed reform naturally and 
strongly appealed to the sympathies of the inhabitants 
of the poorer of the two islands. In May 1839, on the 

1 Many years after the establishment of the postal reform, on the 
occasion of a tour to the English Lakes, our parents took my younger 
sister and me to visit Miss Martineau at her prettily - situated 
Ambleside house. We two girls were charmed with her bright, 
sensible talk, and her kindly, winning personality. We found her 
also much better-looking than from her portraits we had expected 
to see her. They missed the wonderful lighting up of the clever 
face which, when animated, looked far younger than when in 
repose. Among other interesting items of information, she told us 
of her, I fear, useless efforts to rescue the local rural population, 
then mostly illiterates, from the curse of intemperance. She 
contemplated giving a lecture on the subject, and showed us some 
horrifying coloured drawings representing the ravages effected by 
alcohol on the human system which she had prepared for it ; but, 
as she knew that no one would come if the lecture were announced 
as about Drink, she said she should call it a " Discourse on Our 
Digestive Organs," or something of the sort. We never heard th 
fate of that proposed lecture. 


occasion of a public deputation to the Prime Minister, 
Lord Melbourne, to urge adoption of the reform, 
O'Connell spoke in moving terms of its necessity. One 
passage of his speech recalls the remark made, many 
years after, by Gladstone when, at the final interview 
between himself and a later Irish leader, the aged 
statesman, in answer to a question put by the historian 
of "Our Own Times," said that, in his opinion, 
O'Connell's principal characteristic was "a passion 
of philanthropy." 1 " My poor countrymen," said 
O'Connell in 1839, "do not smuggle [letters], for the 
high postage works a total prohibition to them. They 
are too poor to find out secondary conveyances ; and 
if you shut the Post Office to them, which you do 
now, you shut out warm hearts and generous affec- 
tions from home, kindred, and friends. " : 

Hume, one of the great economists, a member of 

1 "The Story of Gladstone's Life," p. 38. By Justin M'Carthy. 

2 " Life," i. 342. How well the great orator understood his 
poorer countrymen's need was shown when, for a few weeks before 
the loth of January 1840, a tentative reduction to a uniform 
fourpenny rate outside London was introduced. The increase of 
letters during those few weeks stood at, for England and Wales, 33 ; 
Scotland, 5 1 ; and Ireland, 5 2 per cent. When my father and his 
brothers as told in the Introductory Chapter used to wander 
about the " green borderland " outside the smaller Birmingham and 
Wolverhampton of the early nineteenth century, they sometimes, in 
the summer and autumn seasons, fell in with the Irish haymakers 
and harvesters, and were struck with the frugal manner in which 
they lived, their sobriety and their unwillingness to break into the 
little hoard of money their wages which they aimed to take back 
intact to their families in Ireland at the end of their few months' 
service here. The postal reform enabled these men to write letters 
and to send their money home cheaply, frequently, and without 
waiting for the season's close. 


that " Manchester School " which the shallow wits of 
the present time deride, and present at this deputation, 
was a man who never advocated any course likely to 
be improvident. Yet, undismayed by possible loss 
of revenue, he gave the postal reform his heartiest 
support ; l while Mr Moffatt, bolder still, volunteered, 
should the Government shrink from the undertaking, 
to start a City Company to work the Post Office, mean- 
while guaranteeing to the State the same annual income 
that it was accustomed to receive. 

Mr Warburton, who headed the deputation, said, 
with telling emphasis, that the proposed reform was a 
measure which a Liberal party had a just right to 
expect from a Liberal Administration. The deputa- 
tion, a very important one, numbering, among others, 
150 Members of Parliament, was unmistakably in 
earnest, and the Government hesitated no longer. Mr 
Warburton's hint was perfectly well understood ; and 
Lord Melbourne's reply was cautious but favourable. 2 

Some three weeks later Mr Warburton wrote to 
tell my father that "penny postage is to be granted." 1 
Three days later still, Mr Warburton wrote again 
that the very date was now settled on which public 
announcement of that fact would be made. A few 

1 Writing of penny postage, eight years later, to the American 
historian Bancroft, Hume said : " I am not aware of any reform 
amongst the many I have promoted during the past forty years 
that has had, and will have, better results towards the improvement 
of the country, socially, morally, and politically." 

2 In Earl Russell's " Recollections," at p. 231, a quotation is made 
from an entry in his journal for 1839, which says : " The Cabinet "- 
of which he was a member " was unanimous in favour of the 
ingenious and popular plan of a penny postage." 

* "Life," i. 343- 


days later still, Mr Warburton rose in the House 
to ask the Home Secretary, Lord John Russell, 
whether the Government intended to proceed with 
a twopenny or a penny rate. Lord John replied 
that the Government would propose a resolution in 
favour of a uniform penny postage. 

By Mr Warburton's advice, Rowland Hill was 
present when this announcement was made, and deep 
was the gratification he felt. 

Still somewhat fearful lest the Government should 

hesitate to adopt prepayment and the postage stamps 

details of vital necessity to the success of the plan 

its author, about this time and at the request of the 

Mercantile Committee, drew up a paper, which they 

published and widely circulated, entitled " On the 

Collection of Postage by Means of Stamps." 

In the Upper House, Lord Radnor, a little later, 
repeated Mr Warburton's question ; and Lord Mel- 
bourne replied that the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
would shortly bring the matter forward. 

My father drew up yet another paper, entitled 
" Facts and Estimates as to the Increase of Letters," 
which was also printed by the Mercantile Committee, 
and a copy sent to every member of Parliament in the 
hope that its perusal might secure support of the 
measure when introduced to the Commons. 

On 5th July, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
Mr Spring Rice, brought in his Budget, the adoption 
of uniform penny postage being proposed in it. 

During the debate, Rowland Hill sat underneath 
the gallery, but when the division came on he 
had, of course, to withdraw. The two door-keepers 


however, who took a lively interest in the progress of 
affairs, and were zealous friends to the reform, advised 
its author to keep within hail ; and at intervals one 
or other of them gave a hurried whisper through 
the grating in the door. "All right!" "Going on 
capitally ! " " Sure of a majority ! " came in succes- 
sion ; and when the anxious listener was laughingly 
informed that Colonel Sibthorpe a Tory of Tories, 
and at one time beloved of Punch's caricaturists 
had gone into the "Ayes" lobby, the cause indeed 
seemed won. In a House of only 328 members 
there were 215 "ayes," and 113 "noes," being a 
majority of 102, or nearly 2 to i. 

But the House of Lords had still to be reckoned 
with ; and towards it the untiring Mercantile Committee 
next directed its attention. Some of its members 
were formed into a deputation to interview the more 
influential peers, the Duke of Wellington for one. 1 

1 Only those who remember any of the generation which lived 
through the long and anxious years of the terrible war with France 
can form an adequate idea of the veneration adoration even felt by 
the nation for the great Duke the Duke as he was generally called. 
My father, at no time addicted to the " scarlet fever," was neverthe- 
less one of the heartiest devotees; and one day during our three 
years' sojourn at Brighton he took some of us children to the railway 
station to see the veteran, then about to return to town after a visit 
to the seaside. There he sat alone under the sheltering hood of his 
open carriage which, with its back turned towards the locomotive, 
was mounted on an ordinary truck at the rear end of the train. He 
wore a dark, military cloak and close-fitting cloth cap, and with his 
thin face, hooked nose, and piercing eyes looked like an ancient 
eagle. His unwandering gaze was bent sea-wards as though he 
descried a foreign fleet making with hostile intentions for our shores. 
He was so used to being stared at that but for his at once giving the 
military salute in acknowledgment of our father's respectful bow and 


Mr Moffatt thereupon put himself into communica- 
tion with the old soldier, and received from him a 
characteristic and crushing reply. " F. M. the Duke 

bared head, we might have thought him unconscious of the presence 
of strangers. He seemed so to be even when our father took us 
close to the train, and bade us look well at the greatest of living 
Englishmen because he was so old that we might not see him again. 
It would, however, have been difficult to forget a face so striking. After 
all, that was not our only sight of him. We often afterwards saw him 
riding in Hyde Park, where the crowd saluted him as if he were 
Royalty itself; and, later still, we looked on at his never-to-be- 
forgotten funeral. Mention of the " Iron Duke " and of the Brighton 
railway brings back to memory another old soldier who figured in the 
same wars and, as Earl of March, achieved distinction. This was 
the then Duke of Richmond, on whom we children looked with 
awesome curiosity, because rumour, for once a truth-teller, declared 
that ever since 1815 he had carried somewhere within his corporeal 
frame a bullet which defied all attempts at extraction, and, indeed, 
did not prevent his attaining to a hale old age. While my father 
was on the directorate of the London and Brighton railway, and 
lived at that seaside resort, he often travelled to town with some 
distinguished man whom he invited to share his coupe. (Why, 
I wonder, is this pleasant sort of compartment rarely or never seen 
nowadays?) More than once the Duke of Richmond was his 
companion. The time was the mid 'forties, when railway locomotives 
were far less powerfully built than they are now, and when, London 
Bridge Terminus being up a rather long incline, it was customary, on 
the departure of a train from the ticket-taking platform, to employ a 
second engine to aid the one in front by pushing from behind. 
The travellers were seated in an end coupe, and opposite their seats 
were, of course, only the usual glass windows. When, therefore, 
the Duke for the first time saw the auxiliary engine coming close up 
against the carriage, he did not know what it meant, turned pale, 
and showed considerable uneasiness. My father soon assured him 
that all was right, and then asked why he, a veteran campaigner, 
was unnerved by a mere railway engine. Whereupon the old 
soldier laughingly replied that he would far sooner face the foe on 
the battlefield than sit quietly right in face of the "iron horse." 


of Wellington presents his compliments to Mr Moffatt. 
The Duke does not fill any political office. He is not 
in the habit of discussing public affairs in private, and 
he declines to receive the visits of deputations or 
individuals for the purpose of such discussions," etc. 

Nothing daunted, Rowland Hill resolved to try 
direct appeal, and wrote to the Duke, setting forth 
briefly "a few facts in support of the Bill," etc. 
No answer was received, but the letter had a 
scarcely looked- for effect. 

The second reading of the Bill in the Commons 
took place on the 22nd July, Mr Goulburn, Sir Robert 
Inglis, and Sir Robert Peel attacked the measure ; and 
Mr Baring, Lord Seymour, the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer, Mr Wallace, and Mr Warburton defended 
it. The House did not divide. The Bill was read 
a third time on 2Qth July, and passed. 

My paternal grandfather was in the House on the 
occasion, and was probably the happiest and proudest 
man there, the author of the plan not even excepted. 

A few days later, my father, through Lord 
Duncannon, 1 received a summons to confer with 
Lord Melbourne at the latter's house the following 
Sunday. Lord Duncannon was present at the 

1 Lord Duncannon had been a member of the Commission of 
Post Office Inquiry of 1835-1838 (already mentioned) which examined 
Rowland Hill in February 1837. He was at first a strong opponent 
of the Reform, but during the examination became one of its 
heartiest supporters. The other two Commissioners were Lord 
Seymour who, later, served on Mr Wallace's Select Committee, was 
afterwards Duke of Somerset, and gave to the world an unorthodox 
little volume and Mr Labouchere, afterwards Lord Taunton, and 
uncle to the better-known proprietor of Truth. 


interview ; and the three soon went to work in the 
most friendly fashion. 

The subject in hand having, after a while, been 
thoroughly mastered, Lord Melbourne began to walk 
up and down the room, his lips moving as if rehears- 
ing his speech for the House of Lords, but uttering 
no word. While thus employed, a servant entered, 
and made an all but inaudible announcement to his 
master. " Show him into the other room," said 
Lord Melbourne ; and presently passed through the 
folding doors into the adjoining apartment. A hum 
of conversation at once began, one of the voices 
rising at last to angry tones, and the postal reformer's 
name being once audibly pronounced by the irate 
speaker. "It is Lord Lichfield," quietly observed 
Lord Duncannon. Gradually, peace seemed to be 
restored ; the visitor departed, and Lord Melbourne, 
re-entering, said : " Lichfield has been here. Why a 
man cannot talk of penny postage without getting into 
a passion passes my understanding." 

The following day, 5th August, the Prime 
Minister, in a long speech, moved the second 
reading of the Penny Postage Bill in the Upper 

The Postmaster-General supported the measure, 
but did not conceal his distrust of it from a financial 
point of view. 

To Lord Brougham's speech allusion has already 
been made. 1 

1 Chap. ii. p. 80. With Lord Brougham and others, my father, 
some years before, had been associated in the movement for the 
"Diffusion of Useful Knowledge," a Society which, in England 


The Duke of Wellington did not believe that 
reduced rates of postage would encourage the 
soldiers on foreign or colonial service to write home 
oftener than before ; 1 and in the earlier part of his 
speech drew so doleful a picture of the state of 
our national finances and of the danger likely to 

and Wales acted as pioneers in the good work of publishing cheap 
and wholesome literature, just as in Scotland did the Chambers 
Brothers. Unfortunately, Brougham believed himself to be scientific, 
and contributed to the series an article so full of mistakes that some 
wag immediately dubbed the Society that for the " Cvnfusion of 
Useful," etc. Brougham was a supporter of the postal reform, and 
my father found in him more kindliness than the world gave him 
credit for possessing. The great lawyer was a very eccentric man, 
and Punch caricatured him unmercifully, invariably representing him 
as clad in the large - checked " inexpressibles" which he is said 
to have always worn because, in a moment of weakness, he had 
purchased as a bargain so huge a roll of cloth of that pattern that 
it supplied him with those garments for the rest of his days. The 
story is pretty generally known of his causing to be published the 
news of his death, and of his sitting, very much alive, in a back room 
of his darkened house, and reading, with quite pardonable interest, 
the obituary notices which appeared in the different newspapers. 
He wrote an execrable hand, which varied in degrees of illegibility. 
The least illegible he and his secretary alone could read ; a worse 
he only; the very worst, not even he could decipher, especially 
if he had forgotten the matter of which it treated. This story has, 
of course, been fathered on many bad writers ; but any one possessed 
of a Brougham autograph must feel convinced that to none but 
him could possibly belong its authorship. 

1 How much mistaken the old warrior was as regards the soldiers' 
letters has been abundantly proved. During the first eight months 
of postal communication between the United Kingdom and our 
comparatively small army in the Crimea and long, therefore, before 
the Board School era more than 350,000 letters passed each way ; 
while when the Money Order system, for the first time in history, 
was extended to the seat of war, in one year over ; 100,000 was sent 
home for wives and families. 


To face p. 141. 


accrue to them through the lowering of any duty, 
that the anxious listener who, by Lord Melbourne's 
wish, was in the House seated on the steps of 
the throne, feared he was about to witness the 
slaughter of the scheme for which he and others 
had worked so strenuously. But Lord Duncannon, 
observing the downcast countenance, came up and 
kindly whispered : " Don't be alarmed ; he is not 
going to oppose us." 

Nor did he ; for, after alluding to the evils of 
high postal rates, the Duke went on to say that, in 
his opinion, the plan most likely to remedy these 
was that known as Mr Rowland Hill's. "Therefore," 
he concluded, " I shall, although with great reluct- 
ance, vote for the Bill, and I earnestly recommend 
you to do the same." 1 

The Bill passed. 2 It received the Royal assent 
on the 1 7th August ; and at onee Mr Wallace wrote 
to congratulate Mrs Hill on the success of her 
husband's efforts, "a success to which your un- 
remitting exertions have greatly contributed." 

Mr Wallace's tribute was well deserved. My 
mother was a devoted wife, a true helpmate, therein 
resembling the late Lady Salisbury, Mrs Gladstone, 
Lady Campbell- Bannerman, and many lesser known 
women. During the long postal reform agitation, 
her buoyant hopefulness and abiding faith in her 
husband's plan never failed to cheer and encourage 
him to persevere. Years after, when their children 

"Life,"i. 352-360. 

' When it passed the Lords, Cobden is said to have exclaimed : 
" There go the Corn Laws ! " 



were old enough to understand the position, their 
father would tell them how much he owed to her, 
and bade them never to forget the debt. She was, 
moreover, a pattern scribe, sitting, hour after hour, 
untiring, unshirking, giving her opinion when asked 
for it, and in a handwriting both legible and beauti- 
fully formed, covering page after page with the 
sentences he dictated. More than one pamphlet, 
his journal, and letters innumerable were thus written 
by her ; and she also helped in the arduous prepara- 
tion for his examination before the Commissioners 
of Post Office Inquiry in 1837, the Select Committee 
on Postage of 1838, and the still later Committee 
of 1843. Years of useful work did she thus devote 
to the reform, and many a time was she seated 
already busy at her task when the first hour of the 
long day's vigil struck four. From her own lips 
little was ever heard of this ; but what other members 
of the family thought of it is shown by the remark 
made by an old kinswoman of my father. Some 
one having spoken in her presence of her cousin 
as "the father of penny postage," she emphatically 
exclaimed: "Then I know who was its mother!" 

The free-traders naturally hailed the postal reform 
with enthusiasm. It was an economic measure en- 
tirely after their own hearts, being, like their own 
effort for emancipation, directed against monopoly 
and class favouritism. Moreover, it gave an immense 
impetus to their crusade, since it enabled the League's 
literature to be disseminated with an ease and to 
an extent which, under the old system, would have 
been impossible. Thus one reform helps on another. 


" The men of the League are your devoted servants," 
wrote Cobden in one of his cheery letters. " Colonel 
Thompson, 1 Bright, and I have blessed you not a 
few times in the course of our agitating tour." 

Cobden was one of the earliest and heartiest of 
Rowland Hill's supporters. He thought so highly 
of " Post Office Reform " that he urgently advised 
its republication in a cheaper form, offering to defray 
half the cost. 2 Of the plan, when it had been some 
time established, he wrote that " it is a terrible 
engine for upsetting monopoly and corruption : witness 
our League operations, the spawn of your penny 

When Sir Robert Peel more enlightened or 
more independent in 1846 than in 1839 and later 
repealed the Corn Tax, Cobden again wrote to 
Rowland Hill. "The League," he said, "will be 
virtually dissolved by the passing of Peel's measure. 
I shall feel like an emancipated negro having ful- 
filled my seven years' apprenticeship to an agitation 
which has known no respite. I feel that you have 
done not a little to strike the fetters from my limbs, 
for without the penny postage we might have had 
more years of agitation and anxiety." 3 

1 Colonel Perronet Thompson was the author of the once 
famous " Anti - Corn - Law Catechism," which might, with great 
advantage, be reprinted now. He was a public-spirited man, one 
of the foremost among the free-traders, and deserves to be better 
remembered than he is. 

2 The pamphlet was published at a shilling ; in those days of 
paper taxation, when books were necessarily dear and correspondingly 
scarce, a by no means exorbitant price. 

3 During a part of Cobden's Parliamentary career and that of his 
and our friends, J. B. Smith and Sir Joshua Walmsley, all three men 


The Post Office, as we have seen, had hitherto 
existed chiefly for the benefit of the aristocratic and 
moneyed classes those of the latter, at least, who 
were Members of Parliament, then rich men only 
the general public having to pay dearly for the 
privilege of using the Department for conveyance 
of their correspondence. But with the advent of 
the new system, the Post Office straightway became 
the paid servant and a far more faithful and efficient 
one than it is sometimes given credit for being of 
the entire nation, since upon every man, woman, 
and child in the United Kingdom were henceforth 
conferred equal rights to postal intercourse. 

Strange to say, the passing of the Penny Postage 
Bill had, to some extent, depended upon the suc- 
cessful making of a bargain. In April 1839 Lord 
Melbourne's Government brought in what was known 
as the Jamaica Bill, which proposed to suspend for 
five years that Colony's Constitution. The measure 
was strenuously opposed by the Conservatives led 
by Peel and by some of the Liberals. On the second 
reading of the Bill, the Government escaped defeat 
by the narrow majority of five, and at onc^ r esigned. 
Peel was sent for by the Queen, but, owing to the 
famous " Bedchamber Difficulty," failed to form a 
Ministry. Lord Melbourne returned to office, and 
the Radical members agreed to give his Administra- 
tion their support on condition that penny postage 
should be granted. "Thus," says my brother, "one 

were next-door neighbours, living in London in three adjoining 
houses. Hence Nos. 101, 103, and 105 Westbourne Terrace came 
to be known as " Radical Row." 


of the greatest social reforms ever introduced was 
actually given as a bribe by a tottering Government 
to secure political support." * A party move not 
altogether without precedent. 

When the new postal system became a legalised 
institution both Mr Wallace and Mr Warburton, 
independently of one another, wrote to Lord Mel- 
bourne, and urged him to give Rowland Hill a 
position in which he would be enabled to work out 
his plan. Of Mr Wallace's letter my father said 
that it was but a specimen of that tried friend's 
general course. "He makes no reference to his 
own valuable labours, but only urges claim for me." 
Mr Warburton's letter was equally generous and 

Lord Melbourne turned no deaf ear to these 
appeals. In the autumn of 1839 the reformer was 
appointed for a term of two years afterwards ex- 
tended to three to the Treasury to superintend the 
working of his plan. Obviously, his proper place, and 
that to which the public expected him to be raised, 
was the Post Office ; but the hostile element there was 
probably too formidable to be withstood. The new 
Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Spring Rice had 
gone to the Upper House as Lord Monteagle was 
Mr (afterwards Sir) Francis Baring, whom Rowland 
Hill found an able, zealous, high-minded chief, and 
whose friendship he valued to the last. 

Of what can only be correctly described as the 
fanatical opposition of the Post Office authorities to 
the reform, it is easy, and customary, to point the 
1 "The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago," p. 24. 


finger of scorn or of derision. This is unjust. 
Honourable men occupying responsible positions as 
heads of an important branch of the Civil Service, 
and bound, therefore, to safeguard what they believe 
to be its truest interests, have a difficult task to 
carry out when they are confronted with the forcible 
acceptance of an untried scheme in whose soundness 
they have little or no faith. That the policy the 
postal officials pursued was a mistaken one time has 
abundantly proved ; but if their opposition argued 
lack of understanding, they merely acted as the 
generality of men similarly situated would have done. 
Even Rowland Hill, who, as an outsider, battered 
so long at the official gates, was wont to confess, 
when, later, he found shelter within the citadel they 
defended, that he was not a little apt to feel towards 
other outsiders a hostility similar to that which his 
old enemies had felt towards him. The sentiment 
is not inspired by the oft-alleged tendency to somno- 
lence that comes of the well - upholstered official 
armchair and assured salary, but from the heart- 
weariness born of the daily importunity of persons 
who deluge a long-suffering Department with crude 
and impracticable suggestions, or with complaints that 
have little or no foundation. 1 

1 Losses, for example, are often imputed to the Post Office for 
which it is entirely blameless. Did space allow, scores of instances 
might be cited. One of the most absurd was the case of a London 
merchant, who, in the course of very many months, wrote at 
intervals angry letters to the Postmaster-General asking why such 
or such a letter had not reached its destination. No amount of 
enquiries could trace the errant missives ; and the luckless Depart- 
ment was, at corresponding intervals, denounced for its stupidity in 


By the time the postal reform had come to be 
an established institution, not a few former adversaries 
loyally aided the reformer to carry out its details, 
by their action tacitly confessing, even when they 
made no verbal acknowledgment, that their earlier 
attitude had been a mistake. Now that all are dead 
their opposition may rightly be regarded with the 
tenderness that is, or should be, always extended 
to the partisans of a lost cause. 

A great deal of the opposition was, however, far 
from honest, and unfortunately had very mischievous 
effects. On this subject something will be said in 
the course of the ensuing chapter. 

equally angry letters to the Press. One day, while certain city 
improvements were being carried out, an ancient pump, near the 
merchant's office, which had long refused to yield any water was 
taken down, when its interior presented an unusual appearance. 
An errand-boy had, at odd times, been sent to post the Firm's 
letters, and had slipped them into the narrow slit where once the 
vanished pump-handle used to work. The introduction of street 
letter-boxes was then recent, and their aspect still unfamiliar. The 
boy had therefore taken the venerable relic for one of those novel 
structures, and all the missing letters lay therein. 



To any one disposed to belief in omens it would seem 
that the beginning of Rowland H ill's connection with 
the Treasury augured ill for its continuance. Even 
the letter which invited him to office went near to 
miss reaching its destination. 

He had left town for a brief rest after the 
strenuous work of the close upon three years' struggle 
for postal reform, leaving strict orders at the South 
Australian Office that if any communication from 
the Government intended for him arrived there it 
should be forwarded without delay. The document 
did arrive, but was laid aside to await the wanderer's 
return because it bore in the left-hand corner what 
seemed to be the signature of a then well-known man 
connected with Australian affairs who, at the meet- 
ings of the Association, was much given to bestow on 
its members much unsought advice and worthless 
criticism ; and was therefore, by unanimous consent, 
voted an insufferable bore. However, when a 
messenger came from the Treasury to ask why no 
notice had been taken of a letter from the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, the alarmed clerk on duty hastened 
to send on the belated dispatch, wrapped up as a 


From a Photograph In Messrs. Whiteley db Co. 


The residence of Rowland Hill when Penny Postage was established. 
The Tablet was put up by the L.C.C. 

To face p. 148. 


brown paper parcel, by railway, as being, to his 
mind, the most expeditious, apparently because most 
novel mode of conveyance. But parcels by rail made 
slower progress in those days than in these ; and 
when at last this one reached its destination its date 
was hardly of the newest. 

The first interview with the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer was scarcely satisfactory, but through no 
fault of Mr Baring, who was but the mouthpiece of 
the Cabinet. The Government, as we have seen, 
offered a temporary (two years') engagement to a 
man already provided with steady employment, and 
therefore in a fairly good financial position, as things 
were then accounted ; required him to devote his 
whole time to the public service ; and to this tem- 
porary engagement proposed to attach the salary 
of a head clerk. This, too, to a man who, with the 
help of thousands of supporters of every class, had 
just inaugurated an epoch-making reform destined to 
confer lasting benefit on his own country and on the 
entire civilised world ; who was on the wrong side 
of forty ; and who had a wife and young children to 
support. The offer however intended could only 
be described as shabby ; and the fact that during 
the interview the amount of emolument was twice 
increased suggested a hard - bargain - driving trans- 
action rather than a discussion between friendly 
negotiators. We have also seen that in 1837 
Rowland Hill, through his friend Mr Villiers, offered 
to make a present to the Government of his plan- 
willing, because he was convinced of its soundness 
and workability, to let them have the full credit of 


its introduction, but stipulating that if the gift were 
refused he should refer his proposals to the Press, 
and to the country a gift the Government had not 
the courage to accept. It is therefore clear that 
monetary greed found no place in my father's tem- 
perament, but only the dread which every prudent 
husband and father must feel when confronted with 
the prospect, in two years' time and at the age 
of forty-six, of recommencing the arduous battle of 

He told Mr Baring that while he was willing 
to give his services gratuitously, or to postpone the 
question of remuneration till the new system should 
have had adequate trial, it would be impossible for 
him to enter on such an undertaking were he placed 
on a footing inferior to that of the Secretary to the 
Post Office a necessary stipulation if the reformer 
was to have full power to carry his plan into opera- 
tion. He was well aware that the post officials 
viewed it and him with unfriendly eyes ; and his 
anxiety was not diminished by the knowledge that 
his reform would be developed under another roof 
than that of the Treasury, and by the very men 
who had pronounced the measure revolutionary, 
preposterous, wild, visionary, absurd, clumsy, and 
impracticable. His opponents had prophesied that 
the plan would fail ; and as Matthew Davenport Hill, 
when writing of this subject, wittily and wisely said : 
" I hold in great awe prophets who may have the 
means of assisting in the fulfilment of their own pre- 
dictions." It was therefore imperative that Rowland 
Hill's position should be a well-defined one, and he 


himself be placed on an equality with the principal 
executive officer among those with whose habits and 
prejudices he was bound to interfere. The labour 
would be heavy, and the conditions were unusual. 
He must try to turn enemies still smarting under the 
bitterness of defeat into allies willing as well as able 
to help on the reform they detested ; and to persuade 
them not to place obstacles in its way. The innova- 
tions to be made would be numerous, because, while 
reduction of postage and modes of prepayment formed 
the principal features of the plan, they were far from 
being the only features. The projected increase of 
facilities for transmitting letters, etc., would cause an 
immense amount of extra work ; and as in this matter 
he would have to contend with the Post Office almost 
single-handed, nothing would be easier than for its 
head officials to raise plausible objections by the score 
to every proposal made. Nor could the public, who 
had now secured cheap postage and an easier mode 
of paying for it to superficial eyes the only part of 
the plan worth fighting for be henceforth relied upon 
to give the reformer that support which was necessary 
to carry out other important details; the less so as 
the reformer would be debarred from appealing for 
outside help or sympathy, because, when once the 
official doorways are passed, a man's independence 
is lost, and his lips are perforce sealed. 

The interview was brought to a close by Rowland 
Hill telling Mr Baring that before returning a definite 
answer he must consult his friends ; and that as his 
eldest brother was away on circuit at Leicester, and 
he proposed to start at once for that town to seek 


fraternal advice, three days must elapse before the 
matter could be settled. 

He found his brother lying on a couch in a state 
of exhaustion after a very hard day's work, and 
Rowland proposed to delay discussion of the question 
till the following day. But Matthew would not hear 
of this ; and, getting more and more moved as the 
younger man proceeded with his tale, presently sprang 
upright, and, oblivious of fatigue, threw himself with 
ardour into the subject of the offered appointment. 
After a while, Matthew proposed to write a letter on 
his own account to Rowland, which the latter should 
hand to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was 
done the next day, the younger brother writing to the 
elder's dictation ; and the letter is given at full length 
in my father's " Life" and in my brother's " The Post 
Office of Fifty Years Ago." In Matthew's own clear 
and eloquent language for he was as admirable a 
writer as he was a speaker are expressed the views 
enunciated above, which Rowland had already laid 
before Mr Baring at the interview just described. 

Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my 
father met again the former wrote him a letter 
explanatory of the course of conduct to be adopted 
on his engagement at the Treasury, stating, among 
other things, that free access to the Post Office, and 
every facility of enquiry as to the arrangements made 
would be given, but that all "your communications 
will be to the Treasury, from which any directions 
to the Post Office will be issued ; and you will not 
exercise any direct authority, or give any immediate 
orders to the officers of the Post Office." The 


explanation was said to be given " to prevent future 
misunderstanding " ; and this was doubtless the 
euphonious mode of expressing apprehension of a 
state of things which, in view of the well-known 
hostility of St Martin's-le-Grand, the writer felt was 
likely to arise ; and again mention was made of the 
condition that " the employment is considered as 
temporary, and not to give a claim to continued 
employment in office at the termination of those two 
years." * 

The prospect was scarcely satisfactory ; never- 
theless, my father hoped that by the end of his term 
of engagement, and by unceasing effort on his part, 
he might find himself "in a recognised position, in 
direct communication with persons of high authority, 
and entrusted with powers which, however weak and 
limited in the outset, seemed, if discreetly used, not 
unlikely in due time to acquire strength and durability. 
I was far from supposing that the attainment of my 
post was the attainment of my object. The obstacles, 
numerous and formidable, which had been indicated 
in my brother's letter had all, I felt, a real existence ; 
while others were sure to appear of which, as yet, I 
knew little or nothing. Still, I felt no way daunted, 
but, relying at once on the efficiency of my plan, I 
felt confident of succeeding in the end." 2 

The goal at which Rowland Hill aimed was, as 
he told Mr Baring at this second interview, the 
permanent headship as distinguished from the 

1 Letter to Rowland Hill from Mr Baring, dated " Downing 
Street, i4th September 1839." 

2 "Life,"i. 371. 


political headship of the Post Office, then filled by 
Colonel Maberly : l the only position in which the 
reformer could really acquire that authority which 
was essential to the development of his plan. But 
the Fates were stronger even than one strong-willed 
man ; and Colonel Maberly held the post for fifteen 
years longer. Thus, when the helm came at last 
into Rowland Hill's hands, he was long past middle 
life ; and his years of almost unrestricted influence 
were destined to be but few. 

Further encouragement to accept the present 
position was given by Mr Baring's friendly, sym- 
pathetic attitude ; and it should here be recorded 
that the longer Rowland Hill served under his chief 
the more cordial grew the relations between them. 
Ample proof of this confidence was seen in the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer's increased readiness 
to adopt suggestions from the new official, and to 
leave to him the decision on not a few questions of 

On the first day of my father's appointment he 

accompanied Mr Baring to the Post Office, that 

being the first time the reformer had set foot within 

its portals. He was much interested in the different 

processes at work, such as date-stamping, "taxing" 

the latter destined soon, happily, to be abolished 

sorting, etc. But the building, which had been 

erected at great expense only ten years previously, 

struck him as too small for the business carried on 

1 An amusing character-sketch of Colonel Maberly is to be 
found in the pages of Edmund Yates's " Recollections and 


in it ; badly planned, badly ventilated, and deficient in 
sanitary arrangements a monument to the fatuity 
alike of architect and builder. This discovery led 
him to think of practicable alterations in the exist- 
ing edifice and of devolution in the shape of erection 
of district offices ; and by Mr Baring's wish he drew 
up a paper giving his views in detail, and including 
with his proposals that necessary accompaniment 
of amalgamation into one force of the two corps of 
letter-carriers, the general and the " twopenny post " 
men, which has already been alluded to. But this 
greatly needed measure was, perforce, deferred till 
after Colonel Maberly's retirement. 

In order the better to get through as much of his 
projected work as he could accomplish in the twice 
twelvemonths before him, my father rose daily at 
six, and after an early breakfast set off for the 
Treasury, where at first his appearance at an hour 
when many officials were probably only beginning 
to rise caused considerable astonishment, and where 
he stayed as long as he could. If even under these 
circumstances the progress made seemed slow and 
unsatisfactory to the man longing to behold his 
scheme adopted in its entirety, how much worse 
would not the reform have fared had he kept strictly 
to the hours prescribed by official custom ! 

A few weeks after his acceptance of office, and 
at Mr Baring's suggestion, he visited Paris to inspect 
the postal system there. He found it in many 
respects well ahead of our own. In France the old 
system never weighed so heavily upon the people as 
did our own old system upon us. The charges were 


about two-thirds of our own for corresponding dis- 
tances, but the number of a letter's enclosures was 
not taken into consideration, the postage varying 
according to weight. Though Paris was much 
smaller than London, its post offices were more 
numerous than ours, being 246 against our 237. 
There was a sort of book post, a parcel post for 
valuables of small dimensions at a commission paid 
of 5 per cent. the Post Office, in case of loss, 
indemnifying the loser to the extent of the value 
of the article ; and a money order system so far in 
advance of our own that the French people sent 
more than double as much money through the post 
as we did. The gross revenue was about two-thirds 
that of the British Post Office ; the expenses 20 
per cent, more ; the nett revenue less than half. 

Street letter-boxes were an old institution in 
France ; our own, therefore, were but an adaptation. 
The larger towns of Germany possessed them, as 
did also the towns and villages of the Channel Isles. 
After his visit to France, Rowland Hill urged the 
Treasury to adopt street letter-boxes, and one was 
put up in Westminster Hall. But it was not till 
the early 'fifties that they were introduced to any 
great extent. Before the establishment of penny 
postage there were only some 4,500 post offices in 
the United Kingdom. In the year of my father's 
death (1879), the number had grown to over 13,000, 
in addition to nearly 12,000 pillar and wall boxes. 
And the advance since 1879 has, of course, been very 
great. 1 But it is not alone in number that the 
1 In connection with the putting up of one receptacle in London 

AJ\>ST-CFF;CE iv 1790. 

By permission of the Proprietors of the City Press. 


To /nee r. 157. 


change is seen. In the case of post offices, a 
handsome edifice, full of busy workers has, in many 
towns and districts, replaced an insignificant build- 
ing managed by a few more or less leisurely officials, 
or by even one person. 

It was during this visit to Paris that my father 
became acquainted with M. Piron, Sous Directeur des 
Posies aux Lettres, a man whose memory should not 
be suffered to perish, since it was mainly through 
his exertions that the postal reform was adopted in 
France. For several years during the latter part of 
Louis Philippe's reign, M. Piron strove so persistently 
to promote the cause of cheap postage that he actu- 
ally injured his prospects of rising in the Service, 
as the innovation was strenuously opposed both 
by the monarch and by the Postmaster-General, 
M. Dubost, the " French Maberly." Therefore, 
while the " citizen king" remained on the throne the 
Government gave little or no encouragement to the 
proposed reform. But M. Piron, too much in earnest 
to put personal advancement above his country's 
welfare, went on manfully fighting for cheap postage. 
He it was who made the accidental discovery among 
the archives of the French Post Office of documents 
which showed that a M. de Valayer had, nearly two 
hundred years before, established in Paris a private 

not many years ago, a gruesome discovery was made. The ground 
near St Bartholomew's Hospital had been opened previous to the 
erection of a pillar letter-box, when a quantity of ashes, wood and 
human, came to light. "Bart's" looks upon Smithfield, scene of 
the burning of some of the martyrs for conscience' sake. No need, 
then, to ponder the meaning of these sad relics. They clearly 
pointed to sixteenth-century man's inhumanity to man. 


(penny ?) post of which further mention will be made 
in the next chapter. Neither Charles Knight, who 
first suggested the impressed stamp, nor Rowland 
Hill, who first suggested the adhesive stamp, had 
heard of M. de Valayer or of his private post ; and 
even in France they had been forgotten, and might 
have remained so but for M. Piron's discovery. One 
is reminded of the re - invention of the mariner's 
compass and of many other new-old things. 

Nine years after my father's official visit to Paris, 
that is, with the advent of the Revolution of 1848, 
the reforming spirit in France had stronger sway ; 
and M. Piron's efforts were at last crowned with 
success. The uniform rate proposed by him (20 
centimes) was adopted, and the stamp issued was 
the well-known black head of Liberty. In order to 
keep pace with the public demand, the first sheets 
were printed in such a hurry that some of the heads 
the dies to produce which were then detached from 
one another were turned upside down. M. Piron 
sent my father one of the earliest sheets with apologies 
for the reversals. These are now almost unobtain- 
able, and are therefore much prized by philatelists. 

During this visit to Paris, or at a later one, my 
father also made the acquaintance of M. Grasset, 
M. St Priest, and other leading post officials ; and, 
among non - official and very interesting people, 
M. Horace Say, son to the famous Jean Baptiste 
Say, and father to the late M. Leon Say, three 
generations of illustrious Frenchmen. 

Although travelling in France or, indeed, in 
England or any other country way in 1839 very 


different from what it has become in these luxurious 
days, for railways were established later in France 
than they were here, my mother had accompanied 
her husband. One day the pair set off in a caleche 
to visit some old friends who lived in a rather distant 
part of the country. Darkness came on, and ere long 
all trace of the road was lost. At last the wretched 
little vehicle broke down in a field ; and the driver, 
detaching the horse, rode off to try to discover their 
whereabouts. The process was a slow one ; and the 
travellers were left alone for what seemed to be 
many hours. Near the field was a wood in which 
wolves had been seen that day, and there was good 
reason to dread a visit from them. When at last the 
driver, having found the right road, reappeared, 
attached the horse to the caleche, and pushed on 
again, he drove his party by mistake to the back- 
door of their friends' house. It was now late at 
night, and the family, who had retired to rest, and 
were waked by the driver's loud knocking, mistook 
the belated travellers for robbers, and refused to 
unbar the door. It was only after a long parley 
that the wearied visitors were admitted, to receive, 
of course, the warmest welcome. The master of the 
house had been the hero of an unusually romantic 
story. As a young officer in the French army, he 
was captured at the time of the unfortunate Walcheren 
expedition, and carried to England, there to remain 
some years as a prisoner of war. While on parole 
he made many friends in this country, where he 
occupied part of his time by the study of English 
law, in which he became a proficient. During his 


novitiate he became acquainted with a young lady 
unto whom he was not long in losing his heart. As 
he came to know her and her widowed mother better, 
a suspicion crossed his mind that the daughter was 
being kept out of a handsome property, rightly hers, 
by a fraudulent relative. Examination of the case 
strengthened suspicion into conviction, and he under- 
took to champion her cause, his knowledge of English 
law coming in as a powerful weapon to his hand. 
On conclusion of the trial, he and some of those 
who had acted with him set off for the lady's home 
as fast as horses, post-boys, and money could take 
them. " They are scattering guineas ! " exclaimed a 
bystander. " They have won the case!" It was so, 
and something more than the case, for the gallant 
young Frenchman was rewarded for his prowess by 
receiving in marriage the hand of the girl for whom 
he had accomplished so much. When the war was 
over, M. Chevalier returned to France together with 
his wife and her mother. 

Heartily as Mr Baring approved of the new 
system, he still distrusted the principle of prepay- 
ment. In this opinion he was, as we have seen, not 
singular. By many people it was still pronounced 
"un-English" to prepay letters. But my father was 
so confident of the wisdom of the step that Mr 
Baring ultimately gave way, stipulating only that 
the responsibility should rest, not on the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, but on the author of the reform. 
The condition was unhesitatingly accepted. 

To ensure use of the stamps, Mr Baring, later, 
proposed that it should be made illegal to prepay 


postage other than by their means ; but Rowland 
Hill, hating compulsion, and feeling confident of 
their ultimate acceptability, maintained that it would 
be better if at first the two modes of payment, money 
and stamps, contended for public favour on equal 
terms, and succeeded in convincing Mr Baring of 
the soundness of that view. 

The question of the stamps was therefore one 
of the first to require my father's attention on his 
return from Paris ; and he found much to occupy 
him in dealing with the many suggestions contained 
in the letters sent in by the public, and in the vast 
number of designs accompanying them. As the 
succeeding chapter will show, the subject, in one 
form or another, took up much of his time for a 
little over twelve months. 

Early in December, at his suggestion, the tenta- 
tive postal rate of id. for London, and 4d. for the 
rest of the kingdom was introduced, all tiresome 
extras such as the penny on each letter for using the 
Menai and Conway bridges, the halfpenny for cross- 
ing the Scottish border, etc., being abolished. This 
experiment was made to allow the postal staff to 
become familiarised with the new system, as a vast 
increase of letters, necessarily productive of some 
temporary confusion, was looked for on the advent 
of the uniform penny rate. Under the old system 
4d. had been the lowest charge beyond the radius 
of the * ' twopenny post " ; therefore, even the pre- 
liminary reduction was a relief. But although three 
years earlier a lowering of the existing rates to a 
minimum of 6d. or 8d. would have been eagerly 


welcomed, the public were now looking forward to 
yet lower charges ; and the prospect of paying qd. 
was viewed with great dissatisfaction. People began 
to suspect that the concession would go no further, 
that the Government intended to " cheat the public," 
and my father was accused of having " betrayed his 
own cause." Thus easily is a scare manufactured. 

The result of the first day of this preliminary 
measure was awaited with some anxiety. The 
increase of the fourpenny letters was about 50, and 
of the penny letters nearly 150 per cent., the unpaid 
letters being about as numerous as usual, prepay- 
ment being not yet made compulsory. This state 
of things my father considered ' ' satisfactory "; Mr 
Baring "very much so." The next day the numbers 
fell off, and this gave the enemies of postal reform 
a delightful, and by no means neglected, opportunity 
of writing to its author letters of the " I told you 
so ! " description. 

The loth of January 1840, when the uniform penny 
rate came into operation, was a busy day at the 
post offices of the country. Many people made a 
point of celebrating the occasion by writing to their 
friends, and not a few some of the writers being 
entire strangers addressed letters of thanks to the 
reformer. 1 One of these was from Miss Martineau, 

1 The first person to post a letter under the new system is 
said to have been Mr Samuel Lines of Birmingham, Rowland 
Hill's former drawing - master, whose portrait hangs in the Art 
Gallery of that city. He was warmly attached to his ex-pupil, 
who, in turn, held the old man in high esteem, and maintained 
an occasional correspondence with him till the artist's death. 
Determined that in Birmingham no one should get the start of 


who had worked ably and well for the reform ; and 
another from the veteran authoress, Miss Edgeworth, 
whom, some twenty years earlier, Rowland Hill had 
visited in her interesting ancestral home. 1 

At that time, and for many years after, there 
was at St Martin's - le - Grand a large centre hall 
open to the public, but, later, covered over and 
appropriated by the ever-growing Circulation Depart- 
ment. At one end of the hall was a window, which 
during part of the day always stood open to receive 
the different kinds of missives. These, as the hour for 
closing drew near, poured in with increasing volume, 
until at "six sharp," when the reception of matter 
for the chief outgoing mail of the day ended, the 
window shut suddenly, sometimes with a letter or 
newspaper only half-way through. 2 On the after- 

him, Mr Lines wrote to my father a letter of congratulation, 
and waited outside the Post Office till at midnight of the 9th 
a clock rang out the last stroke of twelve. Then, knocking up 
the astonished clerk on duty, he handed in the letter and the 
copper fee, and laconically remarked : " A penny, I believe." 

1 Another well-known literary woman, the poetess, Elizabeth 
Barrett Browning, according to her "Letters" recently published, 
wrote to an American friend earnestly recommending adoption of 
"our penny postage, as the most successful revolution since 'the 
glorious three days ' of Paris " meaning, of course, the three days 
of July 1830 (i. 135). 

2 This window and the amusing scramble outside it are 
immortalised in Dickens's pleasant article on the Post Office in 
the opening number of Household Words, first edition, 3oth 
March 1850. (Our friend, Mr Henry Wills, already mentioned 
in the Introductory Chapter, was Dickens's partner in Household 

Words, and brought the famous novelist to our house at 
Hampstead to be dined and " crammed " before writing the article. 
It was a memorable evening. No doubt the cramming was duly 
administered, but recollection furnishes no incident of this opera- 


noon of the loth, six windows instead of one were 
opened ; and a few minutes before post time a 
seventh was thrown up, at which the chief of the 
Circulation Department himself stood to help in the 
receipt of letters. The crowd was good-tempered, 
and evidently enjoyed the crush, though towards 
the last letters and accompanying pennies were 

tion, and only brings back to mind a vivid picture of Dickens talking 
humorously, charmingly, incessantly, during the too brief visit, 
and of his doing so by tacit and unanimous consent, for no one 
had the slightest wish to interrupt the monologue's delightful flow. 
His countenance was agreeable and animated ; the impression made 
upon us was of a man, who, as the Americans aptly put it, is 
"all there." We often saw him both within doors and without, 
for one of his favourite walks, while living in Tavistock Square, 
was up to Hampstead, across the Heath with an occasional peep 
in at "Jack Straw's Castle," where friends made a rendezvous to 
see him and back again to town through Highgate. Every one 
knew him by sight. The word would fly from mouth to mouth, 
" Here comes Dickens ! " and the lithe figure, solitary as a rule, 
with its steady, swinging pace, and the keen eyes looking straight 
ahead at nothing in particular, yet taking in all that was worth 
noting, would appear, pass, and be lost again, the while nearly 
every head was turned to look after him.) Whenever visitors 
were shown over the Post Office, they were advised so to time 
their arrival that the tour should end a little before 6 P.M., with 
a visit to a certain balcony whence a good view could be obtained 
of the scene. One day my father escorted the Duchess of 
Cambridge and her younger daughter better known since as 
Duchess of Teck over the Post Office. He was delighted with 
their society, being greatly struck with the elder lady's sensible, 
well-informed talk, and the lively, sociable manner of the younger 
one. Both were much amused by the balcony scene, and Princess 
Mary entered keenly into the fun of the thing. She grew quite 
excited as the thickening crowd pressed forward faster, laughed, 
clapped her hands, and audibly besought the stragglers, especially 
one very leisurely old dame, to make haste, or their letters would 
not be posted in time. 


thrown in anyhow, sometimes separating beyond 
hope of reunion ; and though many people were un- 
able to reach the windows before six o'clock struck. 
When the last stroke of the hour had rung out, 
and the lower sash of every window had come down 
with a rush like the guillotine, a great cheer went 
up for "penny postage and Rowland Hill," and 
another for the Post Office staff who had worked 
so well. 

So much enthusiasm was displayed by the public 
that the author of the new system fully expected 
to hear that 100,000 letters, or more than three times 
the number usually dispatched, had been posted. 
The actual total was about 112,000. 

The reformer kept a constant watch on the returns 
of the number of inland letters passing through the 
post. The result was sometimes satisfactory, some- 
times the reverse, especially when a return issued 
about two months after the establishment of the 
penny rate showed that the increase was rather less 
than two - and - three - quarters - fold. The average 
postage on the inland letters proved to be three 
halfpence ; and the reformer calculated that at that 
rate a four - and - three - quarters - fold increase would 
be required to bring up the gross revenue to its 
former dimensions. Eleven years later his calcula- 
tion was justified by the result ; and in the thirteenth 
year of the reform the number of letters was exactly 
five times as many as during the last year of the 
old system. 

Meanwhile, it was satisfactory to find that the 
reductions which had recently been made in the 


postage of foreign letters had led to a great increase 
of receipts, and that in no case had loss to the 
revenue followed. 

One reason for the comparatively slow increase 
in the number of inland letters must be attributed to 
the persistent delay in carrying out my father's plan 
for extending rural distribution. In the minute he 
drew up, he says : " The amount of population thus 
seriously inconvenienced the Post Office has declared 
itself unable to estimate, but it is probable that in 
England and Wales alone it is not less than 
4,000,000. The great extent of the deficiency [of postal 
facilities] is shown by the fact that, while these two 
divisions of the empire contain about 1 1 ,000 parishes, 
their total number of post offices of all descriptions 
is only about 2,000. In some places quasi post 
offices have been established by carriers and others, 
whose charges add to the cost of a letter, in some 
instances as much as sixpence. A penny for every 
mile from the post office is a customary demand." 

Of the beneficent effects of cheap postage, grati- 
fying accounts were meanwhile being reported ; some 
told in conversation, or in letters from friends or 
strangers, some in the Press or elsewhere. 

One immediate effect was an impetus to education, 
especially among the less affluent classes. When 
one poor person could send another of like condition 
a letter for a penny instead of many times that 
amount, it was worth the while of both to learn to 

1 "Life," i. 451. In 1841 the census gave the population ot 
England and Wales as a little under 16,000,000. The delay above 
mentioned therefore affected at least a fourth of the number. 


read and write. Many people even past middle age 
tried to master the twin arts ; and at evening classes, 
some of which were improvised for the purpose, two 
generations of a family would, not infrequently, be 
seen at work seated side by side on the same school 
bench. Other poor people, with whom letter-writing, 
for lack of opportunity to practise it, had become a 
half - forgotten handicraft, made laborious efforts to 
recover it. And thus old ties were knit afresh, as 
severed relatives and friends came into touch again. 
Surely, to hinder such reunion by "blocking" rural 
distribution and other important improvements was 
little, if at all, short of a crime. 

Mr Brookes, a Birmingham home missionary, 
reported that the correspondence of the poorer classes 
had probably increased a hundredfold ; and that 
adults as well as young people took readily to pre- 
payment, and enjoyed affixing the adhesive Queen's 
head outside their letters. 

Professor Henslow, then rector of Hitcham, 
Suffolk, wrote of the importance of the new system 
to those who cultivated science and needed to ex- 
change ideas and documents. He also stated that 
before penny postage came in he had often acted 
as amanuensis to his poorer parishioners, but that 
they now aspired to play the part of scribe them- 

The servant class, hitherto generally illiterate, 
also began to indite letters home ; and a young 
footman of Mr Baring's one day told my father that 
he was learning to write in order to send letters to 
his mother, who lived in a remote part of the 


country ; and added that he had many friends who 
were also learning. Indeed, one poor man, settled 
in the metropolis, proudly boasted that he was now 
able to receive daily bulletins of the condition of 
a sick parent living many miles away. 

Charles Knight found that the reduced rates of 
postage stimulated every branch of his trade an 
opinion endorsed by other publishers and book- 
sellers ; and the honorary secretary to the Parker 
Society, whose business was the reprinting of the 
early reformers' works, wrote, two years after the 
abolition of the old system, to tell the author of the 
new one that the very existence of the Society was 
due to the penny post. 

"Dear Rowland," wrote Charles Knight, in a 
letter dated loth May 1843, " The Poor Law 
* Official Circular ' to which par. No. 7 chiefly refers, 
is one of the most striking examples of the benefit of 
cheap postage. It could not have existed without 
cheap postage. The Commissioners could not have 
sent it under their frank without giving it away, 
which would have cost them ^1,000 a year. It is 
sold at 4d., including the postage, which we prepay ; 
and we send out 5,000 to various Boards of Guardians 
and others who are subscribers, and who pay, in 
many cases, by post office orders. The work affords 
a profit to the Government instead of costing a 
thousand a year." 

After four years of the new system Messrs Pick- 
ford said that their letters had grown in number 
from 30,000 to 720,000 per annum. And testimony 
of similar character was given either in evidence 


before the Committee on Postage of 1843, or, from 
time to time, was independently volunteered. 

The postal reform not only gave a vast impetus to 
trade and education, but even created new industries, 
among them the manufacture of letter - boxes and 
letter-weighing machines which were turned out in 
immense quantities to say nothing of the making 
of stamps and of stamped and other envelopes, etc. 

In two years the number of chargeable letters 
passing through the post had increased from 
72,000,000 per annum to 208,000,000. Illicit con- 
veyance had all but ceased, and the gross revenue 
amounted to two - thirds of the largest sum ever 
recorded. The nett revenue showed an increase 
the second year of ; 100,000, and the inland letters 
were found to be the most profitable part of the 
Post Office business. 1 It is a marvel that the new 
system should have fared as well as it did, when 
we take into consideration the bitter hostility of the 
postal authorities, the frequent hindrances thrown in 
the path of reform, to say nothing of the terrible 
poverty then existing among many classes of our 
fellow country people under the blighting influence 
of Protection and of the still unrepealed Corn Laws ; 
poverty which is revealed in the many official reports 
issued during that sad time, in "S.G.O.'s" once 
famous letters, and in other trustworthy documents 
of those days, whose hideous picture has, later, been 
revived for us in that stirring book, " The Hungry 

The hindrances to recovery of the postal revenue 

1 " Report of the Committee on Postage" (1843), p. 29. 


were in great measure caused by the delay in carry- 
ing out the details of Rowland Hill's plan of reform. 
Especially was this the case in the postponement of 
the extension of rural distribution to which allusion 
has already been made one of the most essential 
features of the plan, one long and wrongfully kept 
back ; and, when granted, gratefully appreciated. 
Issue of the stamps was also delayed, these not 
being obtainable for some months after the introduc- 
tion of the new system ; and there was a still longer 
delay in providing the public with an adequate 
supply. 1 

The increase of postal expenditure was another 
factor in the case. The total charge for carrying 
the inland mails in 1835 the year before " Post 
Office Reform" was written was ^225,920; and it 
remained approximately at that figure while the old 
system continued in force. Then it went up by 
leaps and bounds, till by the end of the first year 
of the new system (1840) it reached the sum of 
^333,418. It has gone on steadily growing, as was 
indeed inevitable, owing to the increase of postal 
business ; but the growth of expenditure would seem 
to be out of all proportion to the service, great as 
that is, rendered. By 1868 the charge stood at 
^7i8,ooo, 2 and before the nineteenth century died 
out even this last sum had doubled. 

The following instance is typical of the changes 
made in this respect. In 1844 the Post Office 
received from the coach contractors about 200 for 

1 See also chap. vi. 

2 "Life,"!. 412. 


the privilege of carrying the mail twice a day 
between Lancaster and Carlisle. Only ten years 
later, the same service performed by the railway 
cost the Post Office some ;i 2,000 a year. 1 

Another form of monetary wastefulness through 
overcharge arose from misrepresentation as to the 
length of railway used by the Post Office on different 
lines, one Company receiving about ^"400 a year 
more than was its due although, of course, the true 
distance was given in official notices and time-tables. 
Even when the error was pointed out, the postal 
authorities maintained that the charge was correct. 

This lavish and needless increase of expenditure 
on the part of the Post Office made Mr Baring as 
uneasy as it did my father. Not infrequently when 
explanations were demanded as to the necessity for 
these enhanced payments, evasive or long-delayed 
replies were given. Thus Rowland Hill found him- 
self " engaged in petty contests often unavailing and 
always invidious"; 2 and in these petty contests and 
ceaseless strivings to push forward some item or 
other of his plan, much of his time, from first to 
last, was wasted. Thus, at the beginning of 1841, 
when he had been at the Treasury a year and 
quarter, it became evident that, unless some improve- 
ment took place, two years or even a longer period 
would not suffice to carry out the whole of his plan. 

Before 1841 came to an end he was destined to 
find the opposing powers stronger than ever. In 
the summer of that year the Melbourne Ministry 

1 "First Annual Report of the Postmaster-General, 1854." 

2 "Life,"!. 414. 


fell to the harassed postal reformer a heavy blow. 
For, if during the past two years he had not succeeded 
in accomplishing nearly all he had hoped to do, still 
the record of work was far from meagre. But if, 
with Mr Baring as an ally, and under a Govern- 
ment among whose members, so far as he knew, 
he counted but a single enemy, progress was slow, 
he had everything to dread from a Ministry bound 
to be unfriendly. 

With their advent, conviction was speedily forced 
upon him that the end was not far off. The amount 
and scope of his work was gradually lessened ; 
minutes on postal matters were settled without his 
even seeing them ; and minutes he had himself drawn 
up, with the seeming approbation of his official chiefs, 
were quietly laid aside to be forgotten. On the plea 
of insufficiency of employment insufficiency which 
was the natural consequence of the taking of work 
out of his hands the number of his clerks was cut 
down to one ; and all sorts of minor annoyances 
were put in his way. Meanwhile, the demands from 
the Post Office for increased salaries, advances, 
allowances, etc., which during the past two years 
had been frequently sent up to the Treasury, became 
more persistent and incessant than ever. 

Rural distribution was still delayed, or was only 
partially and unsatisfactorily carried out. Some places 
of 200 or 300 inhabitants were allowed a post office, 
while other centres peopled by 2,000 or 3,000 went 
without that boon. This plan of rural distribution, 
whose object was to provide post offices in 400 
registrars' districts which were without anything of 


the sort, was, after long waiting, conceded by the 
Treasury before the break - up of the Melbourne 
Ministry ; and my father, unused till latterly to 
strenuous modes of official evasion, believed the 
measure safe. He forgot to take into account the 
Post Office's power of passive resistance ; and several 
months were yet to elapse ere he discovered that Mr 
Baring's successor had suspended his predecessor's 
minute ; nor was its real author ever able to obtain 
further information concerning it. 

Nor was this all. Letters written by Rowland 
Hill to the new Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 
subject of registration and other reforms remained 
unnoticed, as did also a request to be allowed to 
proceed with one or two more out of a list of 
measures which stood in need of adoption. Later, 
my father wrote urging that other parts of his reform 
should be undertaken, drawing attention to the work 
which had already been successfully achieved ; and 
so forth. A brief acknowledgment giving no answer 
to anything mentioned in his letter was the only 
outcome. At intervals of two months between the 
sending of each letter, he twice wrote again, but of 
neither missive was any notice taken. 

Among other projects it had been decided that 
Rowland Hill should go to Newcastle-on-Tyne to 
arrange about a day mail to that town ; and the 
necessary leave of absence was duly granted. He 
was also desirous of visiting some of the country 
post offices ; but, being anxious to avoid possible 
breach of rule, he wrote to Colonel Maberly on the 
subject. The letter was referred to the Postmaster- 


General, and, after him, to the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer : the result being that the sanction to any 
portion of the journey was withdrawn. 

One of the worst instances of the official " veiled 
hostility " to reform and reformer appeared in a 
document which my father who might easily have 
given it a harsher name always called the " fallacious 
return," published in 1843. In this the Post Office 
accounts were so manipulated as to make it seem 
that the Department was being worked at an annual 
loss of 12,000 or more. The unfriendly powers 
had all along prophesied that the reform could not 
pay ; and now, indeed, they had a fine opportunity 
of " assisting in the fulfilment of their own pre- 

Till the new postal system was established, 
the "packet service" for foreign and colonial mails 
had, "with little exception," been charged to the 
Admiralty. In the " fallacious return " the entire 
amount (,612,850) was charged against the Post 
Office. Now, in comparing the fiscal results of the 
old and new systems, it was obviously unfair to 
include the cost of the packet service in the one and 
exclude it from the other. Despite all statements 
made to the contrary and a great deal of fiction 
relating to postal arithmetic has long been allowed 
to pass current, and will probably continue so to do 
all down the "ringing grooves of time"- the nett 
revenue of the Department amounted to ,600,000 
per annum} 

Another "mistake" lay in under-stating the gross 
i Life,"ii. 4, 5. 


revenue by some ; 100,000. On this being pointed 
out by my father to the Accountant-General, he at 
once admitted the error, but said that a corrective 
entry made by him had been " removed by order." 1 
And not only was correction in this case refused, but 
other "blunders" in the Post Office accounts on the 
wrong side of the ledger continued to be made, 
pointed out, and suffered to remain. 

In one account furnished by the Department it 
was found, says my father, " that the balance carried 
forward at the close of a quarter changed its amount 
in the transit ; and when I pointed out this fact as 
conclusive against the correctness of the account, it 
was urged that without such modification the next 
quarter's account could not be made to balance." 2 
Not a very bright example of the application of 
culinary operations to official book-keeping because 
of the ease with which it could be detected. What 
wonder that to any one whose eyes are opened to 
such ways, faith in official and other statistics should 
be rudely shaken ! 

The effect of these high-handed proceedings was 
naturally to foster mistaken ideas as to postal 

In 1842 Lord Fitzgerald, during a debate on the 
income-tax, said that the Post Office revenue had 
perished. The statement was speedily disposed ol 
by Lord Monteagle, who, after pointing out the 
falseness of the allegation, declared that the expense 
of the packet service had no more to do with penny 
postage than with the expense of the war in 
1 "Life,ii. 87. 2 Ibid. i. 448. 


Afghanistan or China, or the expense of the Army 
and Naxry. 1 

In the House of Commons, Peel, of course only 
quoting memoranda which had been provided for his 
use, repeated these misleading statistics ; and, later, 
they have found further repetition even in some of 
the Postmaster-General's Annual Reports. 

These frequently recurring instances of thwarting, 
hindering, and misrepresentation showed plainly that 
the working of the postal reform should not have 
been entrusted to men whose official reputation was 
pledged not to its success but to its failure ; and 
that the " shunting " of its author on to a Depart- 
ment other than that in which if endowed with due 
authority he might have exercised some control, 
was, to put the case mildly, a great mistake. 

One ray of comfort came to him in the midst of 
his troubles. In the hard times which prevailed in 
the early 'forties diminution of revenue was far 
from being peculiar to the Post Office. The 
country was undergoing one of the heaviest of those 
periodically recurrent waves of depression which 
lessen the product of all taxes (or the ability to pay 
them) when, in April 1843, my father was able to 
write in his diary that the Post Office " revenue 
accounts show an increase of ,90,000 on the year. 
. . . The Post Office is the only Department which 
does not show a deficiency on the quarter." 

In July 1842, the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
wrote to Rowland Hill to remind him that his three 

1 "Hansard," Ixiv. 321. 

2 Life," i. 460. 


years' engagement at the Treasury would terminate 
in the ensuing September, and adding that he did 
not consider it advisable to make any further exten- 
sion of the period of engagement beyond the date 
assigned to it. 

Dreading lest, when the official doors should close 
behind him, his cherished reform should be wrecked 
outright, its author offered to work for a time with- 
out salary. The offer was refused, and the intended 
dismissal was announced in Parliament. The news 
was received with surprise and indignation there 
and elsewhere. 

The Liberal Press was unanimous in condemna- 
tion of the Government's conduct, and some of the 
papers on their own side, though naturally cautious 
of tone, were of opinion that Rowland Hill had 
been harshly used. The Ministers themselves were 
probably of divided mind ; and my father, when 
commenting upon a letter which the Prime Minister 
about this time addressed to him, says : " I cannot 
but think that, as he wrote, he must have felt some 
little of that painful feeling which unquestionably 
pressed hard upon him in more than one important 
passage of his political career." 1 

At the last interview the postal reformer had 
with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Goulburn's 
courteous manner also went " far to confirm the 
impression that he feels he is acting unjustly and 
under compulsion." 2 

One of the most indignant and outspoken of the 

1 "Life,"i. 471. 

2 Ibid. i. 468. 



many letters which Rowland Hill received was from 
his former chief, Mr Baring, who stigmatised the 
conduct of the Government as "very shabby," more 
than hinted that jealousy was the cause of dismissal, 
and added that had the Postmaster-General's plan of 
letter-registration been carried into effect, it "would 
have created an uproar throughout the country." 
It was well known that the head of the Post Office 
did not feel too kindly towards the reform, and was 
bent on charging a shilling on every registered letter, 
while Rowland Hill stoutly maintained that six- 
pence would be sufficient. 1 Hence the allusion. 
The Postmaster- General is said to have demanded 
his opponent's dismissal, and as he was credited 
with being in command of several votes in the 
Lower House, his wishes naturally carried weight. 

Cobden gave vent to his disgust in a character- 
istic letter in which he suggested that the programme 
of the Anti-Corn-Law League should be followed: 
a national subscription raised, a demonstration made, 
and a seat in Parliament secured. But the pro- 
gramme was not followed. 

Among other letters of sympathy came one from 
the poet who, as his epitaph at Kensal Green reminds 
us, "sang the Song of the Shirt." Said Hood: "I 
have seen so many instances of folly and ingrati- 
tude similar to those you have met with that it 
would never surprise me to hear of the railway people, 

1 The registration fee is one of the postal charges which have 
become smaller since that time, to the great benefit of the public. 
It is pleasant to know that the threatened plan of highly-feed com- 
pulsory registration was never carried into effect. 


some day, finding their trains running on so well, 
proposing to discharge the engines." 1 

The public, used to nearly four years of the new 
system, took alarm lest it should be jeopardised ; 
and the Mercantile Committee, well entitled as, after 
its arduous labours, it was to repose, roused itself 
to renewed action, and petitioned the Government 
to carry out the postal reform in its entirety. 

But the ruling powers were deaf to all protests ; 
and thus to the list of dismissed postal reformers 
was added yet one more. First, Witherings ; then, 
Dockwra ; next, Palmer ; and now, Hill. 

While giving due prominence to the more salient 
features of the intrigue against the postal reform 
and reformer, the painful narrative has been as far 

1 " Gentle Tom Hood," as the wittiest of modern poets has been 
called, was a friend of old standing. Though little read to-day, 
some of his more serious poems are of rare beauty, and his Haunted 
House is a marvel of what Ruskin used to call "word-painting." 
His letters to children were as delightful as those of the better-known 
" Lewis Carroll." Hood was very deaf, and this infirmity inclined 
him, when among strangers or in uncongenial society, to taciturnity. 
Guests who had never met him, and who came expecting to hear 
a jovial fellow set the table in a roar, were surprised to see a 
quiet-mannered man in evidently poor health, striving, by help of 
an^ear-trumpet, to catch other people's conversation. But, at any rate, 
it was not in our house that the hostess, piqued at the chilly silence 
pervading that end of her table which should have been most 
mirthful, sent her little daughter down the whole length of it to 
beg the bored wit to "wake up and be funny !" Hood had many 
cares and sorrows, including the constant struggle with small means 
and ill-health ; and it is pleasant to remember that when the final 
breakdown came, Sir Robert Peel concealing under a cloak of 
kindly tactfulness, so kindly that the over-sensitive beneficiary could 
not feel hurt bestowed on the dying man some sorely-needed 
monetary assistance. 


as possible curtailed. It is, however, well worth 
telling if only to serve as warning to any would-be 
reformer perhaps in any field : in the Post Office 
certainly of the difficulties that lie in the path he 
yearns to tread. Should the reader be inclined to 
fancy the picture overdrawn, reference to the " Life 
of Sir Rowland Hill," edited by Dr G. B. Hill, will 
show that in those pages the story is told with far 
more fulness of detail and bluntness of truth-speaking. 

More than thirty years after Peel had "given 
Rowland Hill the sack," as at the time Punch, in 
a humorous cartoon, expressed it, the real story of 
the dismissal was revealed to its victim by one who 
was very likely to be well-informed on the subject. 
It is an ugly story ; and for a long time my brother 
and I agreed that it should be told in these pages. 
Later, seeing that all whom it concerned are dead, 
and that it is well, however difficult at times, to 
follow the good old rule of de mortuis nil nisi bonum, 
it has seemed wiser to draw across that relic of the 
lorig-ago past a veil of oblivion. 

But here a digression may be made into a several 
years' later history, because, however chronologically 
out of place, it fits in at this juncture with entire 

It is obvious that no person could succeed in 
cleansing so Augean a stable as was the Post Office 
of long ago without making enemies of those whose 
incompetency had to be demonstrated, or whose 
profitable sinecures had to be suppressed. Thus even 
when Rowland Hill's position had become too secure 
in public estimation for open attack to be of much 


avail, he was still exposed to that powerful "back- 
stairs " influence which, by hindering the progress of 
his reform, had done both the public service and 
himself individually much harm. 

Of the reality of this secret hostility, ample proof 
was from time to time afforded, none, perhaps, being 
more striking than the following. When Lord 
Canning had been political head of the Post Office 
for some months, he one day said to my father : 
" Mr Hill, I think it right to let you know that you 
have enemies in high places who run you down 
behind your back. When I became Postmaster- 
General, every endeavour was made to prejudice me 
against you. I determined, however, to judge for 
myself. I have hitherto kept my eyes open, saying 
nothing. But I am bound to tell you now that I find 
every charge made against you to be absolutely untrue. 
I think it well, however, that you should know the 
fact that such influences are being exerted against 
you." 1 

When, at the age of forty-seven, Rowland Hill 
had to begin the world afresh, one dread weighed 
heavily upon his mind. It was that Peel's Govern- 
ment might advance the postal charges to, as was 
rumoured, a figure twice, thrice, or even four times 
those established by the reformed system. It was 
a dread shared by Messrs Baring, Wallace, Moffatt, 
and very many more. Great, therefore, was the relief 
when the last-named friend reported that the new 

1 This and the previous paragraph are contributed by Mr Pearson 
Hill, who was always, and deservedly, entirely in our father's 


Postmaster-General had assured him that there was 
no danger of the postage rates being raised. 1 

After the dismissal by Peel, a long and anxious 
time set in for the little household in the then semi- 
rural precinct of Orme Square, Bayswater ; and again 
my mother's sterling qualities were revealed. Reared 
as she had been in a circle where money was plentiful 
and hospitality unbounded, she wasted no time in 
useless lamentations, but at once curtailed domestic 
expenses those most ruthlessly cut down being, as, 
later, our father failed not to tell us, her own. In his 
parents' home he had lived in far plainer style than 
that maintained in the house of which, for many 
years, owing to her mother's early death, she had 
been mistress. Yet in all that ministered to her 
husband's comfort she allowed scarcely any change 
to be made. At the same time, there was no running 
into debt, because she had a hearty contempt for the 
practice she was wont to describe as "living on the 
forbearance of one's tradespeople." 

But at last anxiety was changed to relief. One 
morning a letter arrived inviting her husband to join 
the London and Brighton Railway Board of Directors. 
Owing to gross mismanagement, the line had long 
been going from bad to worse in every way ; and 
an entirely new directorate was now chosen. The 

1 " Life," i. 436. The only time, later, when there seemed a 
chance of such increase was during the Crimean War, " when," said 
my father in his diary, " being called upon to make a confidential 
report, I showed that, though some immediate increase of revenue 
might be expected from raising the rate to twopence, the benefit 
would be more than counterbalanced by the check to correspond- 
ence ; and upon this the project was abandoned." 


invitation was especially gratifying because it came 
from personal strangers. 

My father's connection with the railway forms an 
interesting chapter of his life which has been told 
elsewhere. In a work dealing only with the postal 
reform, repetition of the story in detail would be out 
of place. One brief paragraph, therefore, shall suffice 
to recall what was a pleasant episode in his career. 

The " new brooms" went to work with a will, 
and the railway soon began to prosper. The price of 
shares notwithstanding the announcement that for 
the ensuing half-year no payment of dividends could 
be looked for rose rapidly ; ordinary trains were 
increased in speed and number, expresses started, and 
Sunday excursion trains, by which the jaded dwellers 
"in populous city pent" were enabled once a week 
to breathe health-giving sea-breezes, were instituted ; 
the rolling stock was improved, and, by the building 
of branch lines, the Company was ere long enabled 
to add to its title "and South Coast." The invitation 
to my father to join the Board met, at the sitting 
which discussed the proposal, with but one dissentient 
voice, that of Mr John Meesom Parsons of the Stock 
Exchange. "We want no Rowland Hills here," he 
said, " to interfere in everything ; and even, perhaps, 
to introduce penny fares in all directions " a rate 
undreamed of in those distant days. He therefore 
resolved to oppose the unwelcome intruder on every 
favourable occasion. The day the two men first met 
at the Board, the magnetic attraction, instinct, what- 
ever be its rightful name, which almost at once and 
simultaneously draws together kindred souls, affected 


both ; and forthwith commenced a friendship which 
in heartiness resembled that of David and Jonathan, 
and lasted throughout life. Mr Parsons, as gleefully 
as any school-boy, told us the story against himself 
on one out of many visits which he paid us ; and with 
equal gleefulness told it, on other occasions and in 
our presence, to other people. 1 

An incident which occurred four years after the 
termination of Rowland Hill's engagement at the 
Treasury seemed to indicate a wish on Peel's part to 
show that he felt not unkindly towards the reformer, 
however much he disliked the reform. In the seventh 
year of penny postage, and while its author was still 
excluded from office, the nation showed its apprecia- 
tion of Rowland Hill's work by presenting him with a 
monetary testimonial. Sir Robert Peel was among 
the earliest contributors, his cheque being for the 
maximum amount fixed by the promoters of the 
tribute. Again Mr " Punch " displayed his customary 
genius for clothing a truism in a felicitous phrase by 
comparing Peel's action with that of an assassin who 
deals a stab at a man with one hand, and with the 
other applies sticking-plaster to the wound. 

1 It was during Rowland Hill's connection with the Railway 
Company that a riddle appeared in a certain newspaper which was 
copied into other papers, and was therefore not slow in reaching our 
family circle. It was worded much as follows : " When is Mr 
Rowland Hill like the rising sun? When he tips the little Hills 
with gold." We never knew who originated this delightful jeu 
d* esprit, but our father was much amused with it, and we children had 
the best possible reason for being grateful to its author. The riddle 
cropped up afresh in Lord Fitzmaurice's " Life of Lord Granville '' 
(i. 174) ; but the Duke of Argyll, then Postmaster-General, is therein 
made the generous donor. 




BETWEEN the date of Rowland Hill's leaving the 
Treasury, and that of his appointment to the Post Office 
to take up afresh the work to which, more than aught 
else, he was devoted, an interval of about four years 
elapsed, during a great part of which, as has just been 
mentioned, he found congenial employment on the 
directorate of the London and Brighton railway ; 
a little later becoming also a member of the Board of 
Directors of two minor lines of railway. But as this 
episode is outside the scope of the present work, the 
four-years-long gap may be conveniently bridged over 
by the writing of a chapter on postage stamps. 

Since their collection became a fashion or, as 
it is sometimes unkindly called, a craze much has 
been written concerning them, of which a great part 
is interesting, and, as a rule, veracious ; while the 
rest, even when interesting, has not infrequently 
been decidedly the reverse of true. This latter fact 
is especially regrettable when the untruths occur in 
works of reference, a class of books professedly com- 
piled with every care to guard against intrusion of 
error. Neglect of this precaution, whether the result 
of carelessness or ignorance, or from quite dissimilar 


reasons, is to be deplored. No hungry person cares to 
be offered a stone when he has asked for bread ; nor 
is it gratifying to the student, who turns with a heart 
full of faith to a should-be infallible guide into the 
ways of truth, to find that he has strayed into the 
realm of fiction. 

The present chapter on stamps merely touches the 
fringe of the subject, in no wise resembles a philatelist 
catalogue, and may therefore be found to lack interest. 
But at least every endeavour shall be made to avoid 
excursion into fableland. 

Since the story of the postal labels should be told 
from the beginning, it will be well to comment here 
on some of the more glaring of the misstatements 
regarding that beginning contained in the notice on 
postage stamps which forms part of the carelessly- 
written article on the Post Office which appeared in 
the ninth edition of the " Encyclopaedia Britannica," 
vol. xix. p. 585. 

(i) " A postpaid envelope," the writer declares, 
" was in common use in Paris in the year 1653." 

So far from being "in common use," the envelope 
or cover was the outcome of an aristocratic monopoly 
granted, as we have seen in a previous chapter, 
to M. de Valayer, who, "under royal approbation" 
set up "'a private' [penny?] 1 post, placing boxes at 
the corners of the streets for the reception of letters 
wrapped up in envelopes which were to be bought 
at offices established for that purpose." 1 To M. de 

1 " Life," i. 377. It is curious that neither in the article on the 
French Post Office in the " Encyclopaedia Brittanica " nor in that 
in Larousse's " Dictionnairt du XIX* Siecle " is mention made of M. 


Valayer, therefore, would seem to belong priority of 
invention of the street letter-box, and perhaps of the 
impressed stamp and envelope ; although evidence to 
prove that the boon was intended for public use seems 
to be wanting. In the days of Louis XIV. how 
many of the " common "alty were able to make use of 
the post ? M. de Valayer also devised printed forms 
of "billets," prepaid, and a facsimile of one is given in 
the Quarterly Review s article. 1 Like our own present- 
day postcards, one side of the billet was to be used for 
the address, the other for correspondence ; but the 
billet was a sheet of paper longer than our postcard, 
and no doubt it was folded up the address, of course, 
showing before being posted. There is no trace 
on the facsimile of an adhesive stamp. Neither is 
mention made of any invention or use of such stamp 
in France or elsewhere in the year 1670, although 
some seeker after philatelist mare's-nests a while since 
read into the article aforesaid fiction of that sort. 

(2) " Stamped postal letter paper (cart a postale 
bollata] was issued to the public by the Government 
of the Sardinian States in November 1818 ; and 
stamped postal envelopes were issued by the same 
Government from 1820 till 1836." 

There was no such issue " to the public." For the 
purpose of collecting postal duties, "stamped paper or 

de Valayer or M. Piron. Whether the real worthies are excluded from 
the articles in order to make room for the fustian bound to creep in, 
it would be difficult to say. But, while perusing these writings, 
a saying of my brother's often returns to mind. " I have never," he 
declared, "read any article upon the postal reform, friendly or 
the reverse, which was free from misstatements." 
i No. 128, p. 555. 


covers of several values, both with embossed and with 
impressed stamps, appear to have been used in the 
kingdom of Sardinia about the year i8i9. J>1 The use 
of these stamped covers, etc., was almost entirely 
limited to one small class of the community, namely 
the Ministers of State, and was in force from about 
1819 to 1821 only. "In March 1836, a formal decree 
was passed suppressing their further use, the decree 
being required simply to demonetise a large stock 
found unused in the Stamp Office at Turin." 1 The 
Sardinian experiment, like the earlier one of M. de 
Valayer in Paris, had but a brief existence, the cause 
1 "The Origin of Postage Stamps," p. 7. By Pearson Hill. 
Here is a story of a " find " that is more interesting than that at 
Turin or that of M. Piron already alluded to, because it comes nearer 
home to us. About the middle of the nineteenth century, and 
during the demolition in London of some old houses which had 
long been appropriated to governmental use, and were now 
abandoned, the discovery was made of a large number of the 
paper-duty stamps, issued by George III.'s Ministry in order to 
tax the "American Colonies." When the obnoxious impost was 
cancelled, and the many years long revolt had become a success- 
ful revolution, the ex-colonies thenceforth assuming the title of 
"The United States," the stamps became waste material, and 
were thrown into a cupboard, and forgotten. At the time of their 
reappearance, the then Chairman of the Board of Stamps and Taxes 
(Inland Revenue Office), Mr John Wood, gave half a dozen of 
them to Rowland Hill, as curiosities ; and one is still in my posses- 
sion. Another was given by my father to the American philan- 
thropist, Mr Peabody, then visiting this country, who was greatly 
interested in the discovery. Now it would be just as correct to say 
that the tax had been imposed on the American Colonies of course 
it never was imposed, since, as we know, payment was from the 
first refused till the middle of the nineteenth century, simply 
because the stamps were only found some eighty years after their 
supersession, as it is to say that the Sardinian "stamped postal 
letter paper" and "stamped postal envelopes" were employed till 


of failure in both cases being apparently attributable 
to the absence of uniformity of rate. 

(3) " Stamped wrappers for newspapers were made 
experimentally in London by Mr Charles Whiting, 
under the name of 'go-frees,' in 1830." 

In this country Charles Knight in as complete 
ignorance as was my father of M. de Valayer's experi- 
ment in the mid-seventeenth century has always been 
considered the first to propose the use of stamped 
covers or wrappers for newspapers ; and this he did 
in 1834, his covers being intended to take the place, 
as payers of postage, of the duty stamp, when that 
odious "tax on knowledge" should be abolished. 
Had it been possible under the old postal system to 
prepay letter-postage as well as newspaper-postage, 
what more likely than that a man so far-seeing as 
was Mr Knight would also have suggested the appli- 
cation of his stamp to all mail matter ? Letter postage 
stamps and prepayment had, of necessity, to await the 
advent of 1840 and uniformity of rate. 1 

(4) " Finally, and in its results most important of 
all, the adhesive stamp was made experimentally by 
Mr James Chalmers in his printing office at Dundee, 
in 1834." 

An untruth followed by other untruths equally 

Mr Chalmers, when writing of his stamps, has 

1836, in which year, after long disuse, they were formally abolished. 
But the manner and matter of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica's" article 
on the Post Office and the stamps are not what they should be, and 
much of them would reflect discredit on the average school-boy. 

1 Prepayment, as has been stated, was not actually unknown, 
but was so rare as to be practically non-existent. 


happily supplied refutation of the fraudulent claim 
set up for him since his own death and that of the 
postal reformer ; and as Mr Chalmers is the person 
chiefly concerned in that claim, and was a man as 
honourable as he was public-spirited, his evidence 
must necessarily be more valuable than that of any 
other witness. He published his suggestions as to 
postal reform, etc., in full, with his name and address 
added, in the Post Circular^ of 5th April 1838, his 
paper being dated 8th February of the same year. 
Specimens of his stamps accompanied his communi- 
cation ; and in a reprint of this paper made in 1839 
he claimed November 1837 as the date of his "first" 
experiments in stamp - making the italics being his 
own. In none of his writings is there mention of 
any earlier experiments ; neither is allusion made j 
to any such in the numerously-signed "certificate" 
addressed by his fellow-citizens of Dundee to the 
Treasury in September 1839. The certificate eulo- 
gises Mr Chalmers' valuable public services, speaks 
of his successful efforts in 1825 to establish a 48 j 
hours' acceleration of the mail-coaches plying between 
Dundee and London, and recommends to " M; 
Lords" the adoption of the accompanying "slips" 
proposed by him. But nowhere in the certificate v. 
reference made to the mythical stamps declared, 
nearly half a century later, to have been made ii 
1834. Yet some of these over one hundn 
signatories must have been among the friends who, 

1 The Post Circular was a paper set up temporarily by tl 
" Mercantile Committee " to advocate the reform. It was abli 
edited by Mr Cole, and had a wide circulation. 


according to the fable, visited Mr Chalmers' printing 
office in that year to inspect those early stamps. 
An extraordinary instance of wholesale forgetfulness 
if the stamps had had actual existence. 1 The "slips" 
made "first" in November 1837 were narrow pieces 
of paper of which one end bore the printed stamp, 
while the other end was to be slipped under the 
envelope flap a clumsy device, entailing probable 
divorce between envelope and "slip" during their 
passage through the post. The fatal objection to all 
his stamps was that they were type-set, thereby 
making forgery easy. In every case the stamps 
bear the face- value proposed by Rowland Hill in 
his plan of reform a penny the half, and twopence 
the whole ounce. Not only did Mr Chalmers not 
invent the stamp, adhesive or otherwise, but of the 
former he disapproved on the ground of the then 
supposed difficulty of gumming large sheets of paper. * 

It may be added that copies of the Post Circular 
figure in the " Cole Bequest " to the South Kensington 
Museum ; and if a very necessary caution addressed 
to the custodians there while the Chalmers claim was 
being rather hotly urged has received due attention, 
those documents should still be in the Museum, un- 
impeachable witnesses to the truth. 

This claim to priority of invention, or of publica- 
tion of invention, of the stamps which, with culpable 
carelessness, obtained recognition in the pages of the 

1 The stamps were probably exhibited at the Dundee printing 
office, any time between November 1837 and September 1839 
at which later date they were sent to London. 

2 Published in February of that year. 


" Encyclopaedia Britannica" has no foundation in fact. 
The writer of the article on the Post Office in 
"Chambers's Encyclopaedia," ix. 677 (edition 1901), 
is far better informed on the subject of which he 
treats, though even he says that "Both" [men] 
" seem to have hit on the plan independently ; 
but," he adds, with true discernment of the weakest 
feature of the claim, " the use of adhesive postage 
stamps, without uniform rates, and at a time when 
the practice of sending letters unpaid was almost 
universal, would obviously have been impossible." 

This impossibility has already been demonstrated 
in the present work in the chapter on " The Old 
System." The simple explanation of the cause 
which prompted Mr Chalmers, late in 1837, to 
make designs for the stamps is not far to seek. At 
some time during the intervening months he had 
read "Post Office Reform," 1 opened up a corre- 
spondence with its author - - till then an entire 
stranger and joined the ranks of those who were 
helping on the reform. It is a pity that in the 
attempt to fix upon this public-spirited man credit 
for an invention which was not his, the good work 
he actually accomplished should be frequently lost 
sight of. 

The " Dictionary of National Biography" also too 
readily gave countenance to the Chalmers fable, a 
decision perhaps explained by the priority of position 
accorded in the alphabet to C over H. An accident 
of this sort gives a misstatement that proverbial long 
start which is required for its establishment, and 
1 Published in February of that year. 


naturally handicaps truth in the race ; the conse- 
quence being that rectification of error is not made, 
and the later article is altered to bring it into seeming 
agreement with the earlier. 1 

On the other hand, the conductors of " Chambers 's 
Encyclopaedia" evidently recognise that a work of 
reference should be a mine of reliable information, 
one of their most notable corrections in a later 
edition of a mistake made in one earlier being that 
attributing the suppression of garrotting to the 
infliction on the criminals of corporal punishment 
an allegation which, however, often asserted by those 
outside the legal profession, has more than once 
been denied by some of the ablest men within it. 

No notice would have been taken in these pages 
of this preposterous claim were it not that the two 
works of reference whose editors or conductors seem 

1 Dr Birkbeck Hill, on one occasion, told me that in the article 
on my father which he was asked to write for the D.N.B. he said 
of the adhesive stamp that its invention had been "wrongfully 
attributed to Mr James Chalmers " words which nowhere appear in 
the article as it now stands. " The proprietors of the ' Encyclopaedia 
Britannica,' " wrote my brother in "The Origin of Postage Stamps," 
pp. 14, 15 (note), " did not avail themselves of the offer I had made 
to place them in communication with those from whom official 
information could be best obtained indeed, they appear to have 
made no application to the Post Office for information of any kind. 
. . . Meanwhile, as it afterwards turned out, they were abundantly 
supplied with Mr P. Chalmers' ex partc, and, to say the least, 
singularly inaccurate statements. With the editor of the 'Dictionary 
of National Biography ' I had no communication whatever." Is it 
after this careless fashion that much of our "island story" is 
compiled? If so, what wonder that long before the present day 
wise men should have declared that all history needed to be 
rewritten ? 



to have been only too easily imposed upon have a 
wide circulation, and that until retractation be made 
an invitation to accord which, in at least one case, 
was refused for apparently a quite frivolous reason 
the foolish myth will in all probability be kept 
alive. The fraud was so clumsily constructed that 
it was scarcely taken seriously by those who know 
anything of the real history of the stamps, impressed 
and adhesive ; and surprise might be felt that sane 
persons should have put even a passing faith in it, 
but for recollection that - - to say nothing of less 
notorious cases the once famous Tichborne claimant 
never lacked believers in his equally egregious and 
clumsily constructed imposture. 

How little the Chalmers claimant believed in his 
own story is shown by his repeated refusal to accept 
any of the invitations my brother gave him to carry 
the case into Court. Had the claim been genuine, 
its truth might then and there have been established 
beyond hope of refutation. 

In all probability most of the claimants to invention 
of the postage stamp they have, to our knowledge, 
numbered over a dozen, while the claimants to the 
entire plan of reform make up at least half that 
tale came from the many competitors who, in 
response to the Treasury's invitation to the public 
to furnish designs, sent in drawings and written 
suggestions. 1 What more natural than that, as years 

1 One of these claimants was a man connected with a well- 
known national museum ; and his pretensions were to us a 
never-failing source of amusement. He was distinguished for two 
peculiarities : one being a passion for slaughtering the reputations 


went past and old age and weakened memory came 
on, these persons should gradually persuade them- 
selves and others that not only had they invented 
the designs they sent up for competition, but also 
the very idea of employing stamps with which to pay 
postage ? Even in such a strange world as this, 
it is not likely that all the claimants were wilful 
impostors. 1 

of his friends ; the other, the misappropriation to his own credit 
of all originality in any reforms or inventions projected by them. 
So far as I am aware, only one claimant was of my own sex ; and she, 
at least, had the courage of her opinions, for, instead of biding her 
time till the postal reformer was no more, the poor insane creature 
wrote direct to him, saying she was the originator of the entire plan, 
and begging him to use his influence with the Government to obtain 
for her an adequate pension. The stories connected with some of 
the other claims are quite as curious as the foregoing. 

1 Inaccuracy of memory applies to other things than invention of 
postage stamps. Here is a curious instance. "Sir John Kaye, in 
writing his history of the Sepoy War, said he was often obliged to 
reject as convincing proof even the overwhelming assertion, ' But I 
was there.' 'It is hard,' he continues, 'to disbelieve a man of 
honour when he tells you what he himself did ; but every writer long 
engaged in historical enquiry has had before him instances in which 
men, even after a brief lapse of time, have confounded in their minds 
the thought of doing, or the intent to do, a certain thing with the 
fact of actually having done it. Indeed, in the commonest affairs of 
daily life we often find the intent mistaken for the act, in retrospect.' 
Kaye was writing at a period of not more than ten to twelve years 
after the events which he was narrating. When you extend ten 
years to twenty or twenty-four, memories grow still more impaired, 
and the difficulty of ensuring accuracy becomes increasingly greater." 
(Thus "The Reformer," A. and H. B. Bonner, vii. 36, 37.) Most 
of the claims to invention of the postage stamp seem to have been 
made considerably more than ten, twelve, twenty, or twenty-four 
years after its introduction some of them curiously, or, at any rate, 
opportunely enough, forty years or so after ; that is about the time 
of Rowland Hill's death, or but little later. 


Rowland Hill's first proposal in regard to the 
postage stamps was that they and the envelopes 
should be of one piece, the stamps being printed on 
the envelopes. But some days later the convenience 
of making the stamp separate, and therefore adhesive, 
occurred to him ; and he at once proposed its use, 
describing it, as we have seen, as " a bit of paper 
just large enough to bear the stamp, and covered 
at the back with glutinous wash," etc. As both 
stamps are recommended in " Post Office Reform" 
as well as in its author's examination before the 
Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry in February 
1837, it i s cl ear that priority of suggestion as well 
as of publication belong to Rowland Hill. 1 

By 1838 official opinion, though still adverse to 
the proposal to tax letters by weight, had come 
to view with favour the idea of prepayment by 
means of stamps. Still, one of the chief opponents 
enumerated as many as nine classes of letters to 
which he thought that stamps would be inapplicable. 
The task of replying to eight of these objections 
was easy enough ; with the ninth Rowland Hill was 

1 For the adhesive stamp, see " Post Office Reform," p. 45, and 
" Ninth Report of the Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry," p. 38. 
The impressed stamp is mentioned in " Post Office Reform " at 
p. 42, and also in that "Ninth Report." The writer of the 
"Encyclopaedia Britannica's" article (xix. 585), while quoting 
Rowland Hill's description of the adhesive stamp, adds : " It is 
quite a fair inference that this alternative had been suggested from 
without," but gives no reason for hazarding so entirely baseless an 
assertion. The article, indeed, bears not a few traces of what looks 
like personal malice ; and it is a pity that the editorial revising pen, 
whether from indolence or from misunderstanding of the subject on 
its wielder's part, was suffered to lie idle. 


fain to confess his inability to deal. Stamps, it was 
declared, would be unsuitable to " half-ounce letters 
weighing an ounce or more." l 

That the stamps whatever should be the design 
chosen would run risk of forgery was a danger 
which caused no little apprehension ; and the 
Chairman of the Board of Stamps and Taxes 
(Inland Revenue) proposed to minimise that risk by 
having them printed on paper especially prepared. 
In the case of the envelopes bearing the embossed 
head, the once famous "Dickinson" paper, which 
contained fine threads of silk stretched across the 
pulp while at its softest, was that chosen. It was 
believed to be proof against forgery, and was in 
vogue for several years, but has long fallen into 

The Government, as we have seen, decided in 
July 1839 to adopt the plan of uniform penny 
postage, including the employment of "stamped 
covers, stamped paper, and stamps to be used 
separately," 2 and invited the public to furnish designs 
for these novel objects. In answer to the appeal 
came in some 2,600 letters containing suggestions 
and many sets of drawings, of which forty-nine 
varieties alone were for the adhesive stamps. It 
was, if possible, an even less artistic age than 
the present though, at least, it adorned the walls 
of its rooms with something better than tawdry 

1 These are the actual words made use of. See "Second 
Report of the Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry," Question 
u, in. 

2 Thus the Treasury Minute. 


bric-a-brac, unlovely Japanese fans, and the contents 
of the china-closet -- and in most cases beauty of 
design was conspicuous by its absence, a fault 
which, coupled with others more serious, especially 
that of entire lack of security against forgery, fore- 
doomed the greater number of the essays to 
rejection. 1 

To become a financial success it was necessary 
that the stamps should be produced cheaply, yet of 
workmanship so excellent that imitation could be 
easily detected. Now there is one art which we 
unconsciously practise from infancy to old age- 
that of tracing differences in the human faces we 
meet with. It is this art or instinct which enables 
us to distinguish our friends from strangers ; and it 
was, perhaps, recognition of this fact that long ago 
led to the placing on the coinage of the portrait of 
the reigning monarch because it was familiar to the 
public eye, and therefore less likely than any other 
face to be counterfeited. In an engraving of some 
well-known countenance, any thickening or misplacing 

1 " In the end there were selected from the whole number of 
competitors four whose suggestions appeared to evince most 
ingenuity," wrote my father. "The reward that had been offered 
was divided amongst them in equal shares, each receiving ^100" 
(" Life," i. 388). Sir Henry Cole gives their names as follows : 
"Mr Cheverton, Mr C. Whiting, myself, and, I believe, Messrs 
Perkins, Bacon & Co. After the labour," he adds, " of reading the 
two thousand five" (?six) "hundred proposals sent to the Treasury, 
' My Lords ' obtained from them no other modes of applying the 
postage stamp than those suggested by Mr Hill himself stamped 
covers or half sheets of paper, stamped envelopes, labels or adhesive 
stamps, and stamps struck on letter-paper itself." ("Fifty Years of 
Public Life," i. 62, 65, 66.) 


of the facial lines makes so great an alteration in 
features and expression that forgery is far more 
easily detected than when the device is only a coat- 
of-arms or other fanciful ornament. 1 For this reason, 
therefore, it was decided in 1839 to reproduce on 
the postage stamp the youthful Queen's head in 
profile designed by Wyon for the money of the then 
new reign, daily use of which coinage was making 
her face familiar to all her people. The head is 
also identical with that on the medal likewise by 
Wyon which was struck to commemorate her first 
State visit to the city in November 1837. 

The stamp then being difficult to counterfeit, and 
worth but little in itself, while the machinery 
employed to produce it was costly, the reason is 
obvious why, so far as is known, only two attempts, 
and those so clumsy that one wonders who could 
have wasted time in forging the things, were made 
to imitate the finely executed, earliest " Queen's 
head." 2 

1 So profoundly did Rowland Hill feel the importance of this 
fact that he invariably scouted a suggestion occasionally made in 
the early days of the postal reform that his own head should appear 
on at least one of the stamps. The some-time postmaster of New 
Brunswick, who caused his portrait to adorn a colonial stamp now 
much sought after by philatelists on account, perhaps, of its rarity, 
for it was speedily abolished, seems to have been of quite a different 
frame of mind. 

2 This earliest stamp was a far finer and more artistic piece of 
workmanship than any of its successors ; and has only to be 
compared with the later specimens say, for example, with King 
Edward's head on ihe halfpenny postcards and newspaper bands 
to see how sadly we have fallen behind some other nations and our 
own older methods, at any rate in the art of engraving, or, at least, 
of engraving as applied to the postage stamp. 


The design was engraved by hand on a single 
steel matrix, the head, through the agency of this 
costly machinery, being encompassed by many fine, 
delicately - wrought lines. The matrix was then 
hardened, and used to produce impressions on a 
soft steel roller of sufficient circumference to receive 
twelve repetitions, the beautiful work of the original 
matrix being therefore repeated, line for line, in 
every stamp printed. The roller, being in turn 
hardened, reproduced, under very heavy pressure, 
its counterpart on a steel plate a score of times, 
thus making up the requisite 240 impressions which 
cause each sheet to be of the value of one 
sovereign. 1 

Absolute uniformity was thus secured at com- 
paratively little cost. The ingenious process was 
invented by Mr Perkins, 2 of the firm .of Perkins, 
Bacon & Co. of Fleet Street, who, during the 
first forty years of the reformed postal system, 
printed some y^ths of our postage stamps, and in 
that space of time issued nearly 21,000,000,000 of 

* In the paper drawn up by Rowland Hill, " On the Collection 
of Postage by Means of Stamps," and issued by the Mercantile 
Committee in June 1839, he had recommended that, for convenience' 
sake, the stamp should be printed on sheets each containing 240, 
arranged in twenty rows of twelve apiece ; and they are so printed 
to this day. It has been asserted that at first the sheets were 
printed in strips of twelve stamps each ; but there is no truth in the 
statement. Archer's perforation patent, which makes separation 
of the adhesives easy, and is therefore a boon to the many of us 
who are often in a hurry, was not adopted before the mid-'fifties. 

2 His father, an American, was the inventor of the once famous 


penny adhesives alone. 1 Later, the contract passed 
into the hands of Messrs De La Rue, who hitherto, 
but long after 1840, had merely printed stamps of 
a few higher values than the penny and twopenny 
issue. In at least one work of fiction, however, the 
impression is conveyed that the latter firm from the 
first enjoyed the monopoly of stamp production of 
all values. 

About midway in the 'fifties a serious fire broke 
out on Messrs Perkins & Co.'s premises, and much 
valuable material was destroyed. Investigation of 
the salvage showed that barely two days' supply of 
stamps remained in stock ; and some anxiety was 
felt lest these should become exhausted before fresh 
ones could be produced, as even a temporary return 
to prepayment by coin of the realm would by this 
time have been found irksome. But with charac- 
teristic zeal, the firm at once recommenced work, 
and only a few people were ever aware how peril- 
ously near to deadlock the modern postal machine 
had come. It was after this fire that the crimson 
hue of the penny adhesive was altered to a sort of 
brick - red. The change of colour one of several 
such changes exhibited by the red stamp is duly 
recorded in Messrs Stanley Gibbon & Co.'s catalogue, 
though the probably long - forgotten accident with 
which it would seem to be connected is not mentioned. 

1 Fifteen years after the issue of the first stamps, during which 
time more than 3,000,000,000 had been printed, it was deemed 
advisable to make a second matrix by transfer from the first. It 
had become necessary to deepen the graven lines by hand, but 
the work was so carefully done that the deviation in portraiture 
was very slight. 


The reasons for the four months' long delay in 
the issue of the stamps were twofold. They were, 
first, the more or less open hostility of the Post 
officials to both reform and reformer, which, as has 
been stated, caused all sorts of hindrances to be 
strewn in the path of progress ; and, secondly, the 
apprehension still felt by the Government that the 
public would not take kindly to prepayment. The 
stamps ought, of course, to have been issued in 
time to be used by the loth January 1840, when 
the new system came into force. When they were 
at last forthcoming, none were forwarded to the 
receiving offices till complaint was made. The fault 
was then found to lie with the wording of the 
Treasury letter giving the requisite directions. 
Later, another difficulty arose. The Stamp Office 
persisted in issuing the stamped covers in entire 
sheets as they were printed, and the Post Office 
refused to supply them uncut to the receivers. Three 
days alone were wasted over this wrangle. A week 
later the Post Office, which had formally undertaken 
the distribution of the covers, discovered that such 
work was beyond its powers. For a month after 
the first issue of the stamps the receiving office; 
remained unsupplied. 

While the Government and others still cherished 
the delusion that the recipient of a letter would feel 
insulted if denied the time - honoured privilege oi 
paying for it, the delayed publication of the stamps 
was less to be regretted since it enabled the experi- 
ment to be first tried with money only. 

The official forecast was at fault. From the very 


start, and with the best will in the world, the public, 
when posting letters, put down pennies and missives 
together, and when the stamps called by would-be 
wits the " Government sticking-plasters" at last 
appeared, the difficulty was not to persuade people 
to make use of them, but to get them supplied fast 
enough to meet the popular demand. 

While the stamps were still new that large section 
of mankind which never reads public instructions was 
occasionally at a loss where to affix the adhesive. 
Any corner of the envelope but the right one would 
be chosen, or, not infrequently, the place at the 
back partly occupied by the old-fashioned seal or 
wafer. Even the most painstaking of people were 
sometimes puzzled, and a certain artist, accustomed, 
like all his brethren of the brush, to consider that 
portion of his canvas the right hand which faced his 
left, was so perplexed that he carried to the nearest 
post office his letter and stamp, knocked up the clerk, 
and when the latter's face appeared at the little 
unglazed window of the ugly wooden screen which 
is now superseded everywhere, perhaps save at 
railway booking offices, by the more civilised open 
network, asked politely, " Which do you call the right 
hand of a letter?" "We've no time here for stupid 
jokes," was the surly answer, and the window shut 
again directly. 

A similar rebuff was administered to a man 
who, while travelling, called for letters at the post 
office of a provincial town. He was the unfortunate 
possessor of an "impossible" patronymic. "What 
name ? " demanded the supercilious clerk. " Snooks," 


replied the applicant ; and down went the window 
panel with a bang, accompanied by a forcibly 
expressed injunction not to bother a busy man with 
idiotic jests. 

To the post office of, at that time, tiny Ambleside, 
came one day a well-to-do man to buy a stamp to 
put on the letter he was about to post. " Is this 
new reform going to last ? " he asked the postmaster. 
"Certainly," was the reply; "it is quite established." 
" Oh, well, then," said the man, resolved to give 
the thing generous support, "give me three stamps!" 
Not much of a story to tell, perhaps, but significant 
of the small amount of letter-writing which in pre- 
penny postage days went on even among those well- 
to-do people who were not lucky enough to enjo 
the franking privilege. 

The postal employees also showed their strange- 
ness to the new order of things by frequently for- 
getting to cancel the stamps when the letters bearing 
them passed through the post thereby enabling dis 
honest people to defraud the Department by causing 
the unobliterated labels to perform another journey 
Many correspondents, known and unknown, sent 
Rowland Hill, in proof of this carelessness, envelopes 
which bore such stamps. Once a packet bearing 
four uncancelled stamps reached him. 

The Mulready envelope had met with the cordial 
approbation of the artist's fellow Royal Academicians 
when it was exhibited in Council previous to its 
official acceptance ; though one defect, palpable to 
any one of fairly discerning ability, had apparently 
escaped the eighty possibly somnolent eyes belong- 


ing to " the Forty " - that among the four winged 
messengers whom Britannia is sending forth in 
different directions seven legs only are apportioned. 
The envelope failed to please the public ; it was 
mercilessly satirised and caricatured, and ridicule 
eventually drove it out of use. So vast a number 
of " Mulreadies " remained in stock 2 however, that, 
on their withdrawal, a machine had to be constructed 
to destroy them. There were no philatelists then 
to come to their rescue. 

Forgery of the stamps being out of the question, 
fraudulent people devoted their energies to getting 
rid of the red ink used to obliterate the black 
"pennies" in order to affix these afresh to letters 
as new stamps. The frauds began soon after the 
first issue of the adhesives, for by the 2ist of May 
my father was already writing in his diary of the 
many ingenious tricks which were practised. Cheat- 
ing the Post Office had so long been an established 
rule, that even when postage became cheap, and 
the public shared its benefits impartially peer and 
Parliamentarian now being favoured no more highly 
than any other class the evil habit did not at once 
die out. 

, In some cases the fraud was palpable and un- 
abashed. For example, Lord John Russell one 
day received a sheet of paper, the label on which 
had been washed so mercilessly that the Queen's 
features were barely discernible. The difficulty of 
dealing with the trouble was, of course, intensified 
by the fact that whereas the stamps were impressed 
on the paper by powerful machinery, and had had 


time to dry, the obliterations were made by hand, 1 
and were fresh a circumstance which, in view of 
the tenacity of thoroughly dried ink, gave a great 
advantage to the dishonest. 

At this juncture an ink invented by a Mr Parsons 
was favourably reported on as an obliterant, but it 
shortly yielded to the skill of Messrs Perkins & Co. ; 
and the stamp - cleaning frauds continuing, several 
of our leading scientific men, including Faraday, 
were consulted. As a result, new obliterating inks, 
red and black, were successively produced, tested, 
and adopted, but only for a while. Some of the 
experiment-makers lived as far off as Dublin and 
Aberdeen ; and Dr Clark, Professor of Chemistry 
at the University of the latter city, came forward 
on his own account, and showed his interest in the 
cause by making or suggesting a number of e^peri- 
ments. Many people, indeed, went to work volun- 
tarily, for the interest taken in the matter was 
widespread, and letters offering suggestions poure< 
in from many quarters. But apparently the chemi- 
cally skilled among the rogues were abler than thos< 
employed by the officials, since the " infallible " 
recipes had an unlucky knack of turning out dism; 
failures. Therefore, after consultation with Faraday, 
it was resolved that, so soon as the stock of stamp; 

1 And a hasty hand, too, for in those days of manual labour then 
was a keen race among the stampers as to who, in a given time, 
should make the greatest number of obliterations. The man whose 
record stood habitually highest was usually called on to exhibit 
his prowess to visitors who were being escorted over the Depart- 


on hand became exhausted, an aqueous ink should 
be used both for the stamps and for the oblitera- 
tion, ordinary black printing ink being meanwhile 
employed for the latter process. Professor Phillips 
and Mr Bacon, of the firm of Perkins & Co., at 
the same time undertook to procure a destructive 
oleaginous ink to be used in the printing of the new 

It was hoped that thoroughly good printer's ink 
would be found efficacious for obliterating purposes ; 
but ere long a chemist named Watson completely 
removed the obliteration. He then proposed for 
use an obliterative ink of his own invention, which 
was tried, but proved to be inconveniently successful, 
since it both injured the paper and effaced the 
writing near the stamp. Its use had therefore to be 

The trouble did not slacken, for while Mr Watson 
was laboriously removing the black printing ink from 
the black pennies, and making progress so slowly 
that, at a like rate, the work could not have repaid 
any one, honest or the reverse, for the time spent 
upon it, Mr Ledingham, my father's clerk, who had 
throughout shown great enthusiasm in the cause, 
was cleaning stamps nine times as fast, or at the 
rate of one a minute a process rapid enough to 
make the trick remunerative. 

Ultimately, it occurred to Rowland Hill that "as 
the means which were successful in removing the 
printing ink obliterant were different from those which 
discharged Perkins' ink, a secure ink might perhaps 



be obtained by simply mixing the two." 1 The device 
succeeded, the ink thus formed proving indestruct- 
ible ; and all seemed likely to go well, when a fresh 
and very disagreeable difficulty made its unwelcom< 
appearance. To enable this ink to dry with sufficient 
rapidity, a little volatile oil had been introduced, an< 
its odour was speedily pronounced by the postal 
officials to be intolerable. Happily, means were 
found for removing the offence ; and at length, a 
little before the close of the year, all requiremem 
seemed to be met. 2 

It had been a time of almost incessant anxiety. 
For more than six months there had been the earlie] 
trouble of securing a suitable design for the stamps, 
and then, when selected, the long delay in effecting 
their issue ; and now, during another six months, 
this later trouble had perplexed the officials and theii 
many sympathisers. In the end, the colour of th< 
black penny was changed to red, the twopenny stam] 
remaining blue. Thenceforth, oleaginous inks wen 
used both for printing and for obliterating ; the in] 
for the latter purpose being made so much mon 
tenacious than that used to print the stamp that an] 
attempt to remove the one from the other, even ii 
the destruction of both did not follow, must at least 
secure the disappearance of the Queen's head, 
simple enough remedy for the evil, and, like man; 
another simple remedy, efficacious ; yet some of th< 
cleverest men in the United Kingdom took half 
year to find it out. 

1 Rowland Hill's Journal, 9th November 1840. 

2 "Life," 1.399-407. 


^Before trial it was impossible to tell which of 
the two kinds of stamps would be preferred : the 
one impressed upon the envelope and so forming a 
part of it, or the other, the handy little adhesive. 
Rowland Hill expected the former to be the favourite 
on account of its being already in place, and there- 
fore less time-consuming. Moreover, as a man gifted 
with a delicate sense of touch, the tiny label which, 
when wet, is apt to adhere unpleasantly to the fingers, 
attracted him less than the cleanlier embossed stamp 
on the envelope ; and perhaps he thought it not 
unlikely that other people would be of like mind. 
But from the first the public showed a preference for 
the adhesive ; and to this day the more convenient 
cover with the embossed head has been far seldomer 
in demand. It is not impossible that if the present 
life of feverish hurry and high pressure continues, 
and even intensifies, the reformer's expectations as 
regards the choice of stamps may yet be realised. 
It may have been the expression of this merely 
"pious opinion" on his part which gave rise to some 
absurd fables as, for instance, that he recommended 
the adhesive stamp "very hesitatingly," and only at 
the eleventh hour ; that he sought to restrict the 
public to the use of the impressed stamp because 
he preferred it himself; and rubbish of like sort. 

From the time that Rowland Hill first planned 
his reform till the day when his connection with the 
Post Office terminated, his aim ever was to make 
of that great Department a useful servant to the 
public ; and all who knew what was his career there 
were well aware that when at length he had beaten 



down opposition, that object was attained. He was 
the last man likely to allow personal predilections or 
selfish or unworthy considerations of any kind to 
stand before the welfare of the service and of his 

From a Photograph by Maull and Polybla-nTc. 


To face p. 211. 



As the evident weakening of Peel's Government 
became more marked, the thoughts of the man who 
had been sacrificed to official intrigues, and unto 
whom it was, as he pathetically writes, " grief and 
bitterness to be so long kept aloof from my true 
work," turned longingly towards the Post Office and 
to his insecurely established and only partially 
developed plan. With a change of Ministry, better 
things must surely come. 

His hopes were realised. In 1846 the Peel 
Administration fell, and Lord John (afterwards Earl) 
Russell became Prime Minister. The public voice, 
clearly echoed in the Press, demanded Rowland Hill's 
recall to office, there to complete his reform. 1 

One of the first intimations he received of his 

1 The people of to-day who have never known the old postal 
system can have no idea of the unanimity and strength of that 
voice. Memory of the former state of things was still fresh in men's 
minds ; and, with perhaps one exception, no person wished for its 
return. " Hill, you are the most popular man in the kingdom," 
one day exclaimed an old friend. The exception there might have 
been more than one, but if so, we were none the wiser was one 
of the Bentincks who, so late as the year 1857, suggested in the 
House of Commons a return to franking on the score that penny 



probable restoration was a letter from Mr Warburton 
advising him to be " within call if wanted." A dis- 
cussion had risen overnight in Parliament. Mr 
Duncombe had complained of the management of 
the Post Office, and so had Mr Parker, the Secretary 
to the Treasury. The new Postmaster - General, 
Lord Clanricarde, it was reported, had found "the 
whole establishment in a most unsatisfactory con- 
dition " ; and the new Prime Minister himself was 
" by no means satisfied with the state of the Post 
Office," and did not "think the plans of reform 
instituted by Mr Hill had been sufficiently carried 
out." Messrs Hume and Warburton urged Mr Hill's 
recall. 1 

Several of the good friends who had worked so 
well for the reform both within and without Parliament 
also approached the new Government, which, indeed, 
was not slow to act ; and my father entered, not, as 
before, the Treasury, but his fitter field of work the 
Post Office. The whirligig of time was indeed bring- 
ing in his revenges. An entire decade had elapsed 
since the reformer, then hopeful and enthusiastic, 
inwardly digested the cabful of volumes sent him by 
Mr Wallace, and dictated to Mrs Hill the pages of 

postage was one of the greatest jobs and greatest financial mistakes 
ever perpetrated. Sir Francis Baring advised Mr Bentinck to try 
to bring back the old postal rates, when he would see what the 
country thought of the proposal. (" Hansard," cxlvi. 188, 189.) 

1 By this time Mr Wallace had retired from public life, and only 
a short while later became involved in pecuniary difficulties. By the 
exertions of his friends and admirers, an annuity was secured to him 
a provision which, though small in comparison with his former 
prosperity, placed the venerable ex-Parliamentarian well above want. 
He died in 1855, aged eighty-two. 


" Post Office Reform." He had at the time been 
denied admission to the Post Office when seeking 
for information as to the working of the old system 
he was destined to destroy. He now found himself 
installed within the official precincts, and in something 
resembling authority there. 

Thus before the passing of the year 1846 he was 
able to comment yet further in his diary on the 
curious parallel between his own treatment and that 
of Dockwra and Palmer. " Both these remarkable 
men," he wrote, "saw their plans adopted, were 
themselves engaged to work them out, and sub- 
sequently, on the complaint of the Post Office, were 
turned adrift by the Treasury." We "were all alike 
in the fact of dismissal. ... I alone was so far 
favoured as to be recalled to aid in the completion 
of my plan." 1 

At the time when Dockwra, the most hardly 
used of all, was driven from office a ruined man, 
and with the further aggravation of responsibility for 
the costs of a trial which had been decided unjustly 
against him, the " merry monarch's " numerous progeny 
were being lavishly provided for out of the national 
purse. The contrast between their treatment and 
that of the man who had been one of the greatest 
benefactors to his country renders his case doubly 

In an interview which Mr Warburton had with 

the Postmaster-General preparatory to Rowland Hill's 

appointment, the Member for Bridport pointed to 

the fact that his friend was now fifty-one years of 

1 " Life," ii. 9, 10. 


age, and that it would be most unfair to call on him 
to throw up his present assured position only to run 
risk of being presently " shelved " ; and further urged 
the desirability of creating for him the post of Adviser 
to the Post Office, in order that his time should not 
be wasted in mere routine duty. At the same time, 
Mr Warburton stipulated that Rowland Hill should 
not be made subordinate to the inimical permanent 
head of the Office. Had Mr Warburton's advice 
been followed, it would have been well for the incom- 
pleted plan, the reformer, and the public service. 
Rowland Hill himself suggested, by way of official 
designation, the revival of Palmer's old title of 
Surveyor-General to the Post Office ; but the pro- 
posal was not received with favour. Ultimately he 
was given the post of Secretary to the Postmaster- 
General, a title especially created for him, which 
lapsed altogether when at last he succeeded to 
Colonel Maberly's vacated chair. The new office was 
of inferior rank and of smaller salary than his rival's ; 
and, as a natural consequence, the old hindrances and 
thwartings were revived, and minor reforms were 
frequently set aside or made to wait for several years 
longer. Happily, it was now too late for the penny 
post itself to be swept away ; the country would 
not have allowed it ; and in this, the seventh year 
of its establishment, its author was glad to record 
that the number of letters delivered within 12 
miles of St Martin's-le- Grand was already equal to 
that delivered under the old system throughout the 
whole United Kingdom. 

By 1846 Rowland Hill was occupying a better 


pecuniary position than when in 1839 he went to the 
Treasury. He had made his mark in the railway 
world ; and just when rumours of his retirement 
therefrom were gaining ground, the South Western 
Railway Board of Directors offered him the manager- 
ship of that line. The salary proposed was unusually 
high, and the invitation was transparently veiled 
under a Desdemona-like request that he would recom- 
mend to the Board some one with qualifications " as 
much like your own as possible." But he declined 
this and other flattering offers, resigned his three 
directorships, and thus relinquished a far larger 
income than that which the Government asked him 
to accept. The monetary sacrifice, however, counted 
for little when weighed in the balance against the 
prospect of working out his plan. 

His first interview with Lord Clanricarde was a 
very pleasant one ; and he left his new chiefs presence 
much impressed with his straightforward, business-like 

On this first day at St Martin's-le-Grand's Colonel 
Maberly and Rowland Hill met, and went through 
the ceremony of shaking hands. But the old 
animosity still possessed considerable vitality. The 
hatchet was but partially interred. 

With Lord Clanricarde my father worked har- 
moniously ; the diarist after one especially satis- 
factory interview writing that he " never met with 
a public man who is less afraid of a novel and 
decided course of action." 

Early in his postal career, my father, by Lord 
Clanricarde's wish, went to Bristol to reorganise 


the Post Office there, the first of several similar 
missions to other towns. In nearly every case he 
found one condition of things prevailing : an office 
small, badly lighted, badly ventilated, and with 
defective sanitary arrangements ; the delivery of 
letters irregular and unnecessarily late ; the mail 
trains leaving the provincial towns at inconvenient 
hours ; and other vexatious regulations, or lack of 
regulations. He found that by an annual expenditure 
of ^125 Bristol's chief delivery of the day could be 
completed by nine in the morning instead of by noon. 
Although unable to carry out all the improvements 
needed, he effected a good deal, and on the termina- 
tion of his visit received the thanks of the clerks and 
letter-carriers. 1 

In 1847 a thorough revision of the money order 
system was entrusted to him ; and, thenceforth, that 
office came entirely under his control. Seventeen 
years later, Lord Clanricarde, in the Upper House, 
paid his former lieutenant, then about to retire, a 
handsome tribute of praise, saying, among other 
things, that, but for Mr Hill, the business of that 
office could hardly have been much longer carried on. 
No balance had been struck, and no one knew what 
assets were in hand. On passing under Mr Hill's 
management, the system was altered : four or five 
entries for each order were made instead of eleven ; 
and official defalcation or fraud, once common, was 
now no more heard of. 2 

1 "Life,"ii. 58. 

2 The Times (Parliamentary Debates), i5th June 1864. The 
Money Order Office dates from 1792. It was first known as 


Lord Clanricarde placed the management of that 
office under my father's command in order that the 
latter should have a free hand ; and it was settled 
that all returns to Parliament should be submitted 
to Rowland Hill before being sent to the Treasury, 
with leave to attack any that seemed unfair to penny 
postage. Previous to this act of friendliness and 
justice on the Postmaster-General's part, papers had 
generally been submitted to the permanent head of 
the office and even to officers of lower rank, but had 
been withheld from the reformer's observation. l 

" Eternal vigilance " is said to be the necessary 
price to pay for the preservation of our liberties ; 
and, half a century ago, a like vigilance had to be 
exercised whenever and wherever the interests of the 
postal reform were concerned. 

The arrears in the Money Order Departments of 

" Stow & Co.," being started as a private undertaking by three 
Post Office clerks ; and its mission was to enable small sums of 
money to be safely transmitted to our sailors and soldiers. Later, 
all classes of the community were included in the benefit, the 
remittances to be forwarded being still restricted to small sums. 
Each of the three partners advanced ;i,ooo to float the enterprise, 
and division of the profits gave to each about 200 a year. The 
commission charged was 8d. in the pound, of which 3d. each went to 
the two postmasters who received and paid the orders, and 2d. 
to the partners. The Postmaster-General sanctioned the measure, 
which clearly supplied a felt want, but refrained from interference 
with its management. In 1838 "Stow & Co." ceased to exist, 
becoming thenceforth an official department, and the then partners 
receiving compensation for the surrender of their monopoly. The 
fees were thereupon fixed at 6d. for sums not exceeding ^2, and 
is. 6d. for sums of 2 to ^"5, the rates being still further reduced 
in 1840. 

1 "Life,"ii. 59, 60. 



the London and provincial offices were so serious that 
to clear them off would, it was declared, fully employ 
thirty-five men for four years. The Post Office had 
always maintained that the Money Order Department 
yielded a large profit ; but a return sent to Parliament 
in 1848 showed that the expenditure of the year 
before the change of management exceeded the 
receipts by more than ; 10,000. In 1849 my father 
expressed "a confident expectation" that in the 
course of the year the Money Order Office would 
become self-supporting. By 1850 that hope was 
realised. By 1852 the office showed a profit of 
,11,664, thereby, in six years, converting the 
previous loss into a gain of more than ,22,000 j 1 
and during the last year of Rowland Hill's life 
(1878-79) the profits were ,39,000. 

A reduction of size in the money order forms and 
letters of advice, and the abolition of duplicate advices 
effected a considerable saving in stationery alone ; 
while the reduction of fees and the greater facilities 
for the transmission of money given by cheap postage 
raised the amount sent, in ten years only, twenty- 
fold. In 1839 about ^313,000 passed through the 
post ; and in 1 864, the year of my father's resigna- 
tion, ,16,494,000. By 1879 the sum had risen to 
^"27,000,000 ; and it has gone on steadily increasing. 

Perhaps the following extract from Rowland Hill's 
journal is satisfactory, as showing improvement in 
account-keeping, etc. "July 8th, 1853. A recent 
return to Parliament of the number and cost of 
prosecutions [for Post Office offences] from 1848 to 
1 "Life,"ii. 257. 


1852 inclusive, shows an enormous decrease nearly, 
I think, in the ratio of three to one. This very 
satisfactory result is, I believe, mainly owing to the 
improved arrangements in the Money Order Office." 

The new postal system, indeed, caused almost a 
revolution in official account - keeping. Under the 
old system the accounts of the provincial postmasters 
were usually from three to six months in arrear, 
and no vouchers were demanded for the proper 
disbursement of the money with which the post- 
masters were credited. In consequence of this 
dilatoriness, the officials themselves were often 
ignorant of the actual state of affairs, or were some- 
times tempted to divert the public funds to their 
own pockets, while the revenue was further injured 
by the delay in remitting balances. Under the 
new system each postmaster rendered his account 
weekly, showing proper vouchers for receipts and 
payments and the money left in hand, to the smallest 
possible sum. This improvement was accompanied 
by lighter work to a smaller number of men, and 
a fair allowance of holiday to each of them. 

When, in 1851, my father's attention was turned 
to the question of facilitating life insurance for the 
benefit of the staff, and especially of its humbler 
members, it was arranged with Sir George Cornwall 
Lewis, 2 at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
that, to aid in making up the requisite funds, the 
proceeds of unclaimed money orders, then averaging 

1 "Life"ii. 260. 

2 Reputed author of the well-known saying that " Life would 
be endurable were it not for its pleasures." 


;i,iOO a year, and all such money found in 
"dead" letters as could not be returned to their 
writers, should be used. Accumulations brought the 
fund up to about ,12,000. In this manner "The 
Post Office Widows' and Orphans' Fund Society" 
was placed on a firm footing. A portion of the 
void order fund was also employed in rescuing from 
difficulties another society in the London office called 
"The Letter-Carriers' Burial Fund." 1 

Although in 1857 my father, with the approval 
of Lord Colchester, the then Postmaster - General, 
had proposed the extension of the money order 
system to the Colonies, it was not till the Canadian 
Government took the initiative in 1859 that the 
Treasury consented to try the experiment. It proved 
so successful that the measure was gradually extended 
to all the other colonies, and even to some foreign 

Like Palmer, Rowland Hill was a born organiser, 
and work such as that effected in the Money Order 
Office was so thoroughly congenial that it could 
scarcely fail to be successful. The race of born 
organisers can hardly be extinct. Is it vain to 
hope that one may yet arise to set in order the 
said - to - be - unprofitable Post Office Savings Bank, 
whose abolition is sometimes threatened ? As a 
teacher of thrift to one of the least thrifty of nations, 

1 "Life," ii. 304-307. In 1871 the amount of unclaimed 
money orders was ,3,390. In that year the Lords of the Treasury 
put an end to this disposal of unclaimed money except in regard 
to the then existing recipients of the aid; and the accumulated 
capital, together with the interest thereon, about ,20,707, was paid 
into the Exchequer. (Editor, G.B.H.'s, note at p. 306.) 


it is an institution that should be mended rather 
than ended. Mending must surely be possible when, 
for example, each transaction of that Bank costs 
7'55d. exclusive of postage or so we are told 
while other savings banks can do their work at a 
far lower price. 1 

The following story is illustrative of the strange 
want of common-sense which distinguishes the race, 
especially when posting missives. " Mr Ramsey, 
(missing-letter clerk)," writes Rowland Hill in his 
diary of 27th May 1847, "has brought me a 
packet containing whole banknotes to the amount 
of ,1,500 so carelessly made up that they had all 
slipped out, and the packet was addressed to some 
country house in Hereford, no post - town being 
named. It had found its way, after much delay, 
into the post office at Ross, and had been sent to 
London by the postmistress." 

It is not often that the head of so dignified and 
peaceful an institution as the Post Office is seen 
in a maimed condition, and that condition the result 
of fierce combat. Nevertheless, in that stirring time 
known as "the year of revolutions" (1848), a 
newly-appointed chief of the French Post Office, in 
the pleasant person of M. Thayer, arrived in this 
country on official business. He came supported on 
crutches, having been badly wounded in the foot 
during the June insurrection in Paris. He told 
us that his family came originally from London, and 
that one of our streets was named after them. If, 
as was surmised, he made a pilgrimage to Marylebone 
1 "Life," ii. 365. (Note by its Editor.) 


to discover it, it must have looked to one fresh from 
Paris a rather dismal thoroughfare. 

About 1849 Rowland Hill instituted periodical 
meetings of the Post Office Surveyors to discuss ques- 
tions which had hitherto been settled by the slower 
method of writing minutes. These postal parliaments 
were so satisfactory that henceforth they were often 
held. They proved "both profitable and pleasant, 
increased the interest of the surveyors in the work 
of improvement, and by the collision of many opinions, 
broke down prejudices, and overthrew obstacles." 

One of the greatest boons which, under my father's 
lead, was secured to the letter-carriers, sorters, post- 
masters, and others, all over the kingdom, was the 
all but total abolition of Post Office Sunday labour. 
In a single day 450 offices in England and Wales 
were relieved of a material portion of their Sunday 
duties. Three months later the measure was extended 
to Ireland and Scotland, 234 additional offices being 
similarly relieved. While these arrangements were in 
process of settlement, Rowland Hill, in the autumn 
of 1849, resolved to still further curtail Sunday 
labour. Hitherto the relief had been carried out in 
the Money Order Department only, but it was now 
decided to close the offices entirely between the 
hours of ten and five. To make this easier, it became 
necessary to provide for the transmission of a certain 
class of letters through London on the Sunday, and 
to ask a few men to lend their services on this 
account. Compulsion there was none : every man 
was a volunteer ; and for this absence of force my 
father, from beginning to end of the movement, 


resolutely bargained. Previous to the enactment of 
this measure of relief, 27 men had been regularly 
employed every Sunday at the General Post Office. 
Their number was temporarily increased to 52 in 
order that some 5,829 men all of whom were com- 
pulsory workers should elsewhere be relieved, each 
of some five - and - three - quarters hours of labour 
every "day of rest." In a few months, all the 
arrangements being complete, and the plan got into 
working order, the London staff was reduced to 
little more than half the number employed before 
the change was made. Ultimately, the services even 
of this tiny contingent were reduced, four men 
sufficing; and Sunday labour at the Post Office 
was cut down to its minimum amount a state of 
things which remained undisturbed during my father's 
connection with that great public Department. 

The actual bearing of this beneficent reform was, 
strange to say, very generally misunderstood, and 
perhaps more especially by " The Lord's Day Society." 
Thus for some months Rowland Hill was publicly 
I denounced as a " Sabbath - breaker " and a friend 
and accomplice of His Satanic Majesty. The mis- 
understanding was not altogether discouraged by 
some of the old Post Office irreconcilables ; but it is 
only fair to the memory of the chief opponent to 
record the fact that when the ill-feeling was at its 
height Colonel Maberly called his clerks together, 
told them that, owing to unjust attacks, the Depart- 
ment was in danger, and exhorted them to stand 
forth in its defence. 1 

1 "Life," ii. 122. On the famous loth of April 1848 (Chartist 




When the turmoil began the Postmaster- General 
was inclined to side with some of the leading officials 
who advocated compulsion should the number volun- 
teering for the London work be insufficient. Happily, 
the supply was more than ample. But when the 
trouble subsided Lord Clanricarde generously admitted 
that he had been wrong and my father right. 

Some of the provincial postmasters and other 
officials, misunderstanding the case, joined in the 

day) Colonel Maberly likewise showed his martial spirit and strong 
sense of the virtue of discipline when he requested Rowland Hill 
to place his own clerks and those of the Money Order Office i 
all about 250 under his, the Colonel's, command, thus making u 
a corps of special constables some 1,300 strong. All over Londo 
on and before that day, there was great excitement ; a large supply 
of arms was laid in, defences were erected at Governmental and 
other public buildings, very little regular work was done, and there 
was any amount of unnecessary scare, chiefly through the alarmist 
disposition of the Duke of Wellington seldom, rumour said, averse 
from placing a town in a more or less state of siege, and ever ready 
to urge upon successive Governments the desirability of spendin 
huge sums on fortifications whose destiny ere long was to becom 
obsolete though partly also because there were many people sti 
living who could remember the Gordon riots immortalised i 
" Barnaby Rudge," and who feared a repetition of their excesse 
But the Chartists were a different set of men from Gordon's "ta 
rag, and bobtail" followers. On the morning of the loth, m 
father, driving to the Post Office, came up in Holborn with the long 
procession marching in the direction of Kennington Common (now 
a park), preparatory to presenting themselves with their petitio 
at the Houses of Parliament. Calling on the cabman to driv 
slowly, my father watched the processionists with keen interest, an 
was much struck with their steady bearing, evident earnestness, an 
the bright, intelligent countenances of many of them. On clos 
inspection, not a few terrible revolutionists are found to loo 
surprisingly like other people, though the comparison does no 
invariably tell in favour of those other people. 


clamour, and went far on the way to defeat a 
measure planned for their relief. Others were 
more discerning, and the postmaster of Plymouth 
wrote to say that at his office alone thirty men 
would be relieved by an enactment which was 
"one of the most important in the annals of the 
Post Office." 

The agitation showed how prone is the public 
to fly to wrong conclusions. Here was Rowland 
Hill striving to diminish Sunday work, and being 
denounced as if he was seeking to increase it ! It goes 
without saying that, during the agitation, numerous 
letters, generally anonymous, and sometimes violently 
abusive, deluged the Department, and especially the 
author of the relief; and that not even Rowland Hill's 
family were spared the pain of receiving from candid 
and, of course, entirely unknown friends letters of the 
most detestable description. Truly, the ways of the 
unco gude are past finding out. 

While the conflict raged, many of the clergy 
proved no wiser than the generality of their flocks, 
and were quite as vituperative. Others, to their 
honour be it recorded, tried hard to stem the tide 
of ignorance and bigotry. Among these enlightened' 
men were the Hon. and Rev. Grantham Yorke, rector 
of St Philip's, Birmingham ; the Professor Henslow 
already mentioned ; and Dr Vaughan, then head- 
master of Harrow and, later, Dean of Llandaff. All 
three, although at the time personal strangers, wrote 
letters which did their authors infinite credit, and 
which the recipient valued highly. The veteran free- 
trader, General Peronnet Thompson, also contributed 



a series of able articles on the subject to the then 
existing Sun. 

Some of the newspapers at first misunderstood 
the question quite as thoroughly as did the public ; 
but, so far as we ever knew, only the Leeds Mercury 
unto whose editor, in common with other editors, 
had been sent a copy of the published report on the 
reduction of Sunday labour had the frankness to 
express regret for having misrepresented the situa- 
tion. 1 Other newspapers were throughout more 
discriminating; and the Times, in its issue of 25th 
April 1850, contained an admirable and lengthy ex- 
position of the case stated with very great clearness 
and ability. 2 

" Carrying out a plan of relief which I had sug- 
gested as a more general measure when at the 
Treasury," says Rowland Hill in his diary, " I pro- 

1 The Mercury's article (25th April 1850) was so good that 
it seems worth while to quote some of it. " Macaulay informs us 
that the post, when first established, was the object of violent 
invective as a manifest contrivance of the Pope to enslave the 
souls of Englishmen ; and most books of history or anecdote will 
supply stories equally notable. But we really very much doubt 
whether any tale of ancient times can match the exhibition of 
credulity which occurred in our own country, and under our own 
eyes, within these last twelve months. . . . Nearly 6,000 people 
have been relieved from nearly six hours' work every Sunday by 
the operation of a scheme which was denounced as a deliberate 
encouragement to Sabbath-breaking and profanity." 

2 A propos of never answering attacks in the Press and elsewhere, 
my father was not a little given to quote the opinion of one of 
the Post officials who " goes so far as to declare that if he found 
himself charged in a newspaper with parricide, he would hold his 
tongue lest the accusation should be repeated next day with the 
aggravation of matricide." "Life," ii. 235. 


posed to substitute a late Saturday night delivery 
in the nearer suburbs for that on Sunday morning. 
By this plan more than a hundred men would be 
forthwith released from Sunday duty in the metro- 
politan district alone." l He further comments, perhaps 
a little slyly, on the " notable fact that while so 
much has been said by the London merchants and 
bankers against a delivery where their places of 
business are, of course, closed, not a word has been 
said against a delivery in the suburbs where they 
live." * 

To give further relief to Sunday labour, Rowland 
Hill proposed "so to arrange the work as to have 
the greatest practicable amount of sorting done in 
the travelling offices on the railways ; the earlier 
portion ending by five on Sunday morning, and the 
later not beginning till nine on Sunday evening. 
The pursuit of this object led to a singular device." 3 
He was puzzling over the problem how to deal with 
letters belonging to good-sized towns too near to 
London to allow of sorting on the way. The rail- 
way in case was the London and North-Western ; 
the towns St Albans and Watford. The thought 
suddenly flashed upon him that the easiest way out 
of the difficulty would be to let the down night mail 
train to Liverpool receive the St Albans and Watford 
up mails to London ; and that on arrival at some 
more remote town on the road to Liverpool they 

1 This relief, proposed in November 1849, became an accom- 
plished fact a few days before the year died out. 

2 "Life, "it. 138. 
' Ibid. ii. 137. 


should be transferred, sorted, to an up train to be 
carried to London. No time would be really lost 
to the public, because, while the letters were perform- 
ing the double journey their destined recipients would 
be in bed ; nor would any additional expense or 
trouble be incurred. The plan was a success, was 
extended to other railways, and the apparently 
eccentric proceeding long since became a matter of 
everyday occurrence. 

In 1851 prepayment in money of postage on 
inland letters was abolished at all those provincial 
offices where it had thus far been allowed. Early in 
the following year the abolition was extended to 
Dublin, next to Edinburgh, and, last of all, to London 
thus completing, throughout the United Kingdom, 
the establishment of prepayment by stamps alone, 
and thereby greatly simplifying the proceedings at all 
offices. To save trouble to the senders of many 
circulars, the chief office, St Martin's-le-Grand, con- 
tinued to receive prepayment in money from 10 A.M. 
to 5 P.M., in sums of not less than 2 at a time : an 
arrangement, later, extended to other offices. 

An extract from Rowland Hill's diary, under 
date 2Qth October 1851, says: "A clerkship at 
Hong- Kong having become vacant by death, the 
Postmaster - General has, on my recommendation, 
determined not to fill it, and to employ part of the 
saving thus effected in giving to the postmaster and 
each of the remaining clerks in turn leave of absence 
for a year and a half, 1 with full salary, and an allowance 

1 In those slower-going days a large part of the holiday would 
be taken up by the journey home and back. 


of ;ioo towards the expense of the voyage. By 
these means, while ample force will still be left, the 
poor fellows will have the opportunity of recruiting 
their health." 

Early in 1852 Rowland Hill also writes in his 
diary that " The Postmaster-General has sanctioned 
a measure of mine which, I expect, will have the 
effect of converting the railway stations in all the 
larger towns into gratuitous receiving offices." The 
plan, convenient as it has proved, was, however, 
long in being carried out. 

The agitation to extend penny postage beyond 
the limits of the British Isles is much older than 
many people suppose. Far back in the 'forties 
Elihu Burritt 1 strove long and manfully in the cause 
of "ocean penny postage" ; and in my father's diary, 

1 A frequent and always welcome visitor at my father's house 
was this son of America "the learned blacksmith," as he was 
habitually called. He was one of the most interesting as well as 
most refreshingly unconventional of men, but was never offensively 
unconventional because he was one of "Nature's noblemen." 
Sweet-tempered, gentle-mannered, and pure-minded, he won our 
regard affection even from the first. He could never have been 
guilty of uttering an unkind word to any one, not even to those who 
were lukewarm on the slavery question, who did not feel inspired 
to join the Peace Society, or who were languid in the cause of 
"ocean penny postage." On the last-named subject he had, as an 
entire stranger, written to my father a long letter detailing his 
scheme, and urging the desirability of its adoption ; and it was 
this letter which led to our making Elihu Burritt's acquaintance. 
He became a great friend of my elder sister, and maintained with 
her a many years' long correspondence. Once only do I remember 
seeing him angry, and then it was the righteous indignation which 
an honest man displays when confronted with a lie. It was when 
unto him had been attributed the authorship of my father's plan. 


under date 5th March 1853, it is recorded that the 
Postmaster - General received a deputation "which 
came to urge the extension of penny postage to the 
Colonies." l It was a reform long delayed ; and as 
usual the Post Office was reproached for not moving 
with the times, etc. That a large portion of the 
blame lay rather with the great steamship companies, 
which have never failed to charge heavily for con- 
veyance of the mails, is far too little considered. 

But the great steamship companies are not alone 
in causing the Post Office to be made a scapegoat 
for their own sins in the way of exacting heavy pay- 
ments. In 1853 Rowland Hill gave evidence before 
a Parliamentary committee to consider railway and 

He would have nothing to do with a fraudulent claim to which 
sundry other men have assented kindly enough, or have even, with 
unblushing effrontery, appropriated of their own accord. Elihu 
Burritt and Cardinal Mezzofanti were said to be the two greatest 
linguists of the mid-nineteenth century ; and I know not how many 
languages and dialects each had mastered the one great scholar a 
distinguished prince of the Roman Catholic Church, the other an 
American of obscure birth and an ex-blacksmith. Another trans- 
atlantic postal reformer, though one interested in the reform as 
regarded his own country rather than ours, was Mr Pliny Miles, who 
in outward appearance more closely resembled the typical American 
of Dickens's days than that of the present time. In his own land 
Mr Miles travelled far and wide, wrote much, spoke frequently, and 
crossed the Atlantic more than once to study the postal question 
here. He was an able man, and a good talker. I well remember 
his confident prophecy, some few years before the event, of 
fratricidal war between the Northern and Southern States; how 
bitterly he deplored the coming strife ; and how deeply impressed 
were all his hearers both with the matter and manner of his 
discourse. I believe he had " crossed the bar " before hostilities 
broke out. 

1 "Life,"ii. 241. 


canal charges ; and showed that, owing to the strained 
relations between the Post Office and the railway 
companies, the use of trains for mail conveyance was 
so restricted as to injure the public and even the 
companies themselves ; also that, while the cost of 
carrying passengers and goods had been greatly 
reduced on the railways, the charge for carrying the 
mails had grown by nearly 300 per cent, although 
their weight had increased by only 140 per cent. 
He also laid before the Committee a Bill approved 
by two successive Postmasters-General framed to 
prescribe reasonable rates, and laying down a better 
principle of arbitration in respect of trains run 
at hours fixed by the Postmaster - General. The 
Committee, as shown by their Report, mainly 
adopted Rowland Hill's views, which were indeed 
perfectly just, and, if adopted, would, in his estima- 
tion, have reduced the annual expenditure in rail- 
way conveyance then about ^360,000 by at least 
; 1 00,000. The proposals were made to secure fair 
rates of charge in all new railway bills, but it was 
intended to extend the arrangement eventually to 
already existing railways. But the railway influence 
in Parliament was too strong to allow adoption 
of these improvements ; and attempts subsequently 
made were unavailing to alter the injurious law 
enacted early in the railway era, and intended to 
last only till experience of the working of the lines 
should have afforded the requisite data for laying 
down a scale of charges. 1 Being of opinion that, in 
order to serve the public more effectually, far greater 
1 "Life," ii. 227-230.. 


use should be made of the railways, the reformer 
tried to procure for the Post Office the unrestricted 
use of all trains for a moderate fixed charge. Owing, 
however, to the existing law, the uncertainty of rates 
of payment, the excessive awards frequently made, 
and other causes, this useful measure was not adopted, 
with the result that the subsidies to the companies 
went on increasing in magnitude. 

In the same year the Great Northern Railway had 
spontaneously begun to run a train at night, at such 
speed as to outstrip the night mail on the London and 
North-Western line. Believing that the object was 
to tempt the public into agitating for the use of the 
rival train and line, my father applied to the North- 
Western Railway company for such acceleration as 
would obviate the possibility of such a demand being 
made. He also suggested the introduction of what 
are now called limited mails ; but this idea was not 
adopted for some years. 1 Till the acceleration was 
accomplished the answer to a letter leaving London 
by the night mail for Edinburgh or Glasgow could 
not be received till the afternoon of the next day 
but one. 

Increased speed, however, was found to produce 
unpunctuality, misunderstandings, and other evils ; and 
the public grew dissatisfied. Of course the railway 
companies blamed the Post Office, and, equally, of 

1 " My notion is," wrote the diarist, "to run a train with only one 
or two carriages in addition to those required for the mail, and to 
stop only once in about 40 miles." A long distance run in those 
days. The speed was fixed at 40 miles an hour, stoppages included. 
This was considered very quick travelling in the 'fifties. 


course, though with better reason, the Post Office 
blamed the railway companies. My father proposed 
that each side should be subjected to fines whenever 
irregularity occurred, and that punctuality should 
receive reward. But the proposal was not accepted. 
In 1855, however, the attempt was again made to 
induce the railway companies to agree to the pay- 
ment of mutual penalties in case of unpunctuality, 
coupled with reward to the companies, but not to 
the Office, for punctual performance. Only one 
company the North British accepted the proposal, 
the result being that the instances of irregularity 
were in half a year brought down from 112 to 9, 
the company at the same time receiving a reward 
of ,400. 

Later, the railway companies agreed to accelerate 
their night mails between London and Edinburgh 
and Glasgow. An additional payment of some 
,15,000 a year had to be made, but the benefit to 
the two countries was so great that the outlay was 
not grudged. The effort to extend a like boon to 
Ireland was not so successful. The companies which 
had begun with moderate demands, suddenly asked 
for lessened acceleration and increased remuneration ; 
and the Government adopted their views in preference 
to those of the Postmaster - General and the postal 
reformer. As a natural consequence, an annual 
subsidy of over ; 100,000 had to be paid in addition 
to the necessary cost of provision for letter-sorting in 
the trains and steamships. Punctuality also was often 
disregarded, and penalties were suspended on the score 
of insufficient pier accommodation at Holyhead. 



Some of the companies were short-sighted enough 
to refuse what would have been remunerative work 
offered by the Post Office. On one short line of 
23 miles, ,3,000 per annum was demanded for the 
carriage of a night mail ; and, although the Office 
offered to furnish a train of its own, as by law any 
one was entitled to do, and to pay the appointed tolls, 
though legally exempt from so doing such payment 
to be settled by arbitration the proposal was rejected. 
Ultimately, a more circuitous route was adopted at a 
third of the cost first demanded. 

There was great need of reorganisation and 
common - sense rearrangement in these matters. 
Why, for instance, when carrying a letter between 
Land's End and John O' Groat's should twenty-one 
separate contracts, irrespective of engagements with 
rural messengers and of plans for the conveyance of 
mail-bags to and from railway stations and post offices, 
have been required ? 

With a view to the reduction of these extravagant 
subsidies, Rowland Hill proposed that " Government 
should, on ample security, and to a limited extent, 
advance loans on the terms on which it could itself 
borrow to such companies as were willing to adopt 
a reasonable tariff of charge for postal services." He 
hoped by these means to reduce the annual payments 
to the companies by about ,250,000. The Duke of 
Argyll, then Postmaster- General, and Mr Hutchinson, 
Chairman of the Stock Exchange, highly approved of 
the plan ; but, though it evoked much interest, and 
came up again as a public question more than once 
in later years, no progress was made. Were State 


purchase of the railways to become the law of the 
land, solution of the difficulty might yet be discovered. 

One of the measures Rowland Hill hoped to see 
accomplished was the conveyance of mails on one 
of the principal lines by special trains absolutely 
limited to Post Office service. The cost would be 
moderate if the companies could be induced to join 
in an arrangement under which, the bare additional 
expense in each instance being ascertained by a 
neutral authority, a certain fixed multiple of that 
amount should be paid. Captain (afterwards Sir 
Douglas) Galton, of the Board of Trade, and Sir 
William Cubitt heartily approved of the plan, the 
latter estimating the cost in question at is. to is. 3d. 
a mile, and advising that two and a half times that 
amount should be offered. Under this rule the Post 
Office would pay less for the whole train than it 
already paid for a small part of one. The plan of 
charge by fixed scale found little favour with the 
companies ; but the proposed special mail service was 
ultimately adopted. 

The Postmaster-General (Lord Canning's) Com- 
mission in 1853 on the Packet Service which included 
among its members Lord Canning himself and the 
then Sir Stafford Northcote did much useful work, 
and published an able Report giving a brief history 
of "contract mail-packets"; explaining why, under 
older conditions, heavy subsidies were necessary, and 
expressing their opinion that, as now the steamers 
so employed carry passengers and freight, these large 
subsidies could no longer be required. When a new 
route has been opened for the extension of commerce, 



further continuance of the Service, unless desirable on 
account of important political reasons, should depend 
on its tendency to become self-supporting. Among 
other recommendations made were the omission in 
future contracts of many conditions whose effect is 
increase of cost ; a reduction of the contract to an 
undertaking (subject to penalties for failure) to convey 
the mails at fixed periods and with a certain degree 
of speed, and an agreement that, except in the case 
of a new route, contracts should not be allowed to 
exist for a long period. 

When at last the management of the Packet 
Service was transferred from the Admiralty to the 
Post Office, a useful indeed necessary reform was 
accomplished. While in the hands of the former 
Department, the Service had become a source of 
very heavy expense, owing, in great part, to its 
extension for political reasons very far beyond postal 

Great inconvenience had resulted also from the 
slight control possessed by the Post Office over the 
Service. In 1857, for example, the contract with the 
West Indian Packet Company was renewed without 
the knowledge of either the Postmaster-General or 
of Rowland Hill. The absence in the contracts of 
stipulations as to punctuality likewise had ill effects. 
The most punctual service at this time was that 
between Devonport and the Cape of Good Hope, 
as the Union Steamship Company, into whose 
contract such stipulations had been introduced in 
strong form, made during 1859 every one of its 
voyages within the appointed time. 


Investigation of the Packet Service accounts 
showed how abundant was the room for diminution of 
cost. The annual charge to the Home Government 
for conveying the mails to and from Honduras was, 
as a consequence, readily cut down from ^"8,000 to 
^2,000, and eventually to .1,500. There had always 
been a heavy loss on the foreign and colonial service. 
That to the Cape of Good Hope and Natal was 
reduced in six years from ^28,000 to ^5,400 per 
annum. Much of the merit of this diminution of 
cost, as regards the Packet Service, was always 
attributed by my father to his youngest brother 
Frederic ; and while that department remained under 
the latter's control the large annual loss was reduced 
by more than ^"200,000 one-half the sum by the 
cutting down of expenditure, the other half by increased 
yield from the correspondence. The cost to the 
British taxpayer was further lightened by calling upon 
the colonists, who had hitherto been exempt from all 
such charges, henceforth to bear their fair share of 
the expense. Thus both punctuality and economy 
were insisted upon. 

About 1857 a persistent demand arose for a mail 
service to Australia by the Panama route, the Press 
vigorously taking up the agitation, and the Govern- 
ment being accused of " red tapeism " because they did 
not move in the matter, or not until the outcry grew so 
loud that it was deemed expedient to apply to the 
shipping agencies for tenders. Being one day at the 
Athenaeum Club, Rowland Hill met a friend, a man of 
superior education and varied knowledge, who had 
long held an important post in the Far East, almost 


on the shores of the Pacific. "Why," asked this 
friend, " do you not establish an Australian mail 
by the Panama route?" " Why should we?" was 
the counter-question. " Because it is the shortest," 
replied the friend. At once Rowland Hill proposed 
an adjournment to the drawing - room, where stoo( 
a large globe ; the test of measurement was applied, 
and thereupon was demonstrated the fallacy of a wide- 
spread popular belief, founded on ignorance of the 
enormous width of the Pacific Ocean a belief, as this 
anecdote shows, shared even by some of those who 
have dwelt within reach of its waters. 1 

But convincing friends was of far less moment than 
convincing the public ; and Rowland Hill drew up a 
Report on the subject which, backed by the Postmaster- 
General, Lord Colchester, had the desired effect of 
preventing, for the time being, what would have been 
a heavy and useless expenditure of public money. 2 

1 " It is curious," says my father, " how inveterate is the mistake 
in question. Columbus expected to reach Cathay more quickly by 
sailing westward, but was stopped by the American continent. 
The projectors of the * Darian Scheme ' hoped to enrich themselves 
by making their settlement a great entrepot between Europe and the 
East Indies ; and Macaulay, in his interesting narrative of the 
enterprise ( c History of England,' vol. v. p. 200), considers their 
mistake to consist mainly in the assumption that Spain would permit 
a settlement on its territory; but it seems not to have occurred 
to him that, in any event, the scheme was intrinsically hopeless, 
seeing that the old route by the Cape of Good Hope, besides 
avoiding the cost and delay of transhipment, surpasses the Darian 
route even in shortness" ("Life," ii. 292). It is also well known 
that the discoverer of certain rapids on the great river St Lawrence 
believed himself to be nearing the country of Confucius when 
he called them " La Chine." 

a Thus the agitation for an "all red route " is a mere revival. 

Id, . ^j'rui* 



It is found that great public ceremonies affect 
the weekly returns of the number of letters passing 
through the post. Sometimes the result is a per- 
ceptible increase ; at other times a" decrease. The 
funeral of the great Duke of Wellington was held 
on the 1 8th November 1852, and " all London "was 
in the streets to look at it. The weekly return, 
published on the 22nd, showed that the number of 
letters dispatched by the evening mail from the 
metropolis on that memorable i8th fell off by about 
100,000. The next day's letters were probably 
increased by an extra 10,000. The revolutionary 
year, 1848, also had a deteriorating influence on 
correspondence, the return published in 1849 for the 
previous twelvemonths showing a smaller increase 
than, under ordinary circumstances, might have been 

In 1853 Docker's ingenious apparatus for the 
exchange of mail - bags at those railway stations 
through which trains pass without stopping was 
introduced. The process is described by the postal 
reformer as follows : " The bags to be forwarded, 
being suspended from a projecting arm at the station, 
are so knocked off by a projection from the train 
as to fall into a net which is attached to the mail 
carriage, and is for the moment stretched out to 
receive them ; while, at the same time, the bags to be 
left behind, being hung out from the mail carriage, 
are in like manner so struck off as to be caught in a 
net fixed at the station ; the whole of this complex 
movement being so instantaneous that the uninformed 
eye cannot follow it." It was this inability to under- 


stand the movement which led to a ridiculous error. 
On the first day of the experiment people assembled 
in crowds to witness it. At Northallerton " half 
Yorkshire " gathered according to the mail inspector 
and many were under the impression that the 
outgoing set of bags they saw hanging to the 
projecting arm in readiness for absorption by the 
passing train, and. the incoming set hanging out from 
the mail carriage, ready to be caught in the net fixed 
at the station, were one and the same thing. Though 
what useful purpose could be served by the mere 
"giving a lift" of a hundred yards or so to one 
solitary set of bags is rather hard to perceive. 

The invention was not altogether a success, very 
heavy bags especially when the trains were running 
at great speed being sometimes held responsible for 
the occurrence of rather serious accidents. It even 
became necessary to cease using the apparatus till 
the defect, whatever it might be, could be put right. 
Several remedies were suggested, but none proved 
effectual till my brother, then only twenty-one years 
of age, hit upon a simple contrivance which removed 
all difficulties, and thenceforth the exchange - bag 
apparatus worked well. Sir William Cubitt, who had 
unsuccessfully striven to rectify matters, generously 
eulogised his youthful rival's work. 

The stamp - obliterating machines which super- 
seded the old practice of obliteration by hand were 
also my brother's invention. In former days the 
man who could stamp the greatest number of letters 
in a given time was usually invited to exhibit his 
prowess when visitors were shown over the office. 


The old process had never turned out impressions 
conspicuous for legibility, and means of improve- 
ment had been for some time under consideration. 
But it was a trial presided over by Lord Campbell 
in 1856 which precipitated matters. An important 
question turned upon the exact date at which a 
letter had been posted, but the obliterating stamp 
on the envelope was too indistinct to furnish the 
necessary evidence. Lord Campbell sharply ani- 
madverted upon the failure, and his strictures caused 
the Duke of Argyll then Postmaster - General to 
write to Rowland Hill upon the subject. The use 
of inferior ink was supposed to be responsible for the 
trouble, and various experiments were tried, without 
effecting any marked beneficial result. Objection was 
made to abolition of the human hand as stamper on 
the ground that thus far it had proved to be the 
fastest worker. Then my brother's mechanical skill 
came to the rescue, and complaints as to clearness 
and legibility soon became rare. 1 By the machines 
the obliterations were made faster than by the best 
hand-work, the increase of speed being at least 50 
per cent. About the year 1903 my brother's 
machines began, I am told, to be superseded by 
others which are said to do the work faster even 
than his. Judging by some of the obliterations 
lately made, presumably by these later machines, 
it is evident that, so far as clearness and legibility 
are concerned, the newer process is not superior to 
the older. 

My brother was a born mechanician, and, like 

1 Sixth Annual Report of the Postmaster-General. 



our uncle Edwin Hill, could, out of an active brain, 
evolve almost any machine for which, in some 
emergency, there seemed to be need. To give free 
scope to Pearson's obvious bent, our father had, in 
his son's early youth, caused a large four - stalled 
stable adjoining our house at Hampstead to be 
altered into a well-equipped workshop ; and in this 
many a long evening was spent, the window being 
often lighted up some hours after the rest of the 
family had retired to bed, and my brother being 
occasionally obliged to sing out, through the one 
open pane, a cheery " good-night " to the passing 
policeman, who paused to see if a burglarious con- 
spiracy was being devised during the nocturnal small 
hours, from the convenient vantage-ground of the 

The dream of my brother's life was to become 
a civil engineer, for which profession, indeed, few 
young men could have been better fitted ; and the 
dream seemed to approach accomplishment when, 
during a visit to our father, Sir William (afterwards 
first Lord) Armstrong spoke most highly of Pearson's 
achievements he had just put into completed form 
two long-projected small inventions and offered to 
take the youth into his own works at Newcastle-on- 
Tyne. But the dream was never destined to find 
realisation. Sir William's visit and proposal made 
a fitting opportunity for the putting to my brother 
of a serious question which had been in our father's 
head for some time. In his son's integrity, ability, 
and affection, Rowland Hill had absolute trust. Were 
the younger man but working with him at the Post 


Office, the elder knew he could rely on unswerving 
support, on unwavering fidelity. The choice of 
callings was laid before my brother : life as a civil 
engineer a profession in which his abilities could 
not fail to command success or the less ambitious 
career of a clerk at St Martin's - le - Grand. Our 
father would not dwell upon his own strong leaning 
towards the latter course, but with the ever-present 
mental image of harassing official intrigues against 
himself and his hard-won reform, it is not difficult 
to picture with what conflicting emotions he must 
have waited his son's decison. This was left entirely 
in the young man's hands ; and he chose the part 
which he knew would best serve his father. The 
cherished dream was allowed to melt into nothing- 
ness, and my brother began his postal career not 
as a favoured, but as an ordinary clerk, though one 
always near at hand, and always in the complete con- 
fidence of his immediate chief. Whatever regrets 
for the more congenial life Pearson may have 
harboured, he never, to my knowledge, gave them 
audible expression, nor could any father have had a 
more loyal son. When, many years later, it seemed 
desirable that some official should be appointed to 
report on the value of the mechanical inventions 
periodically offered to the Post Office, and to super- 
vise those already in operation, it seemed when my 
brother was selected for that post as if he had only 
received his due, and that merely in part. 

He had also administrative ability of no mean 
order ; and when only twenty-eight years of age 
was selected by the Postmaster-General to go to 



Mauritius to reorganise the post office there, which 
through mismanagement had gradually drifted into 
a state of confusion, apparently beyond rectification 
by the island authorities. He speedily brought the 
office into good working order ; but perhaps his 
Mauritian labours will be best remembered by his 
substitution of certain civilised stamps like those 
then used in some of the West Indian isles in place 
of the trumpery red and blue, penny and twopenny, 
productions which were the handiwork of some local 
artist, and which are now so rare that they command 
amazingly large sums of money in the philatelist 

By permission of the Proprietor of Flett's Studios, late London School 
of Photography. 


To Jace p. 



THE important Commission appointed in 1853 to 
revise the scale of salaries of the Post Office em- 
ployees held many sittings and did valuable work. 1 
Its report was published in the following year. 
Rowland Hill's examination alone occupied eight 
days ; and he had the satisfaction of finding the Com- 
missioners' views in accordance with his own on the 
subject of patronage, promotion, and classification. 

On the score that the business of the Post Office 
is of a kind which peculiarly requires centralisation, 
the Commission condemned the principle of the 
double Secretariate, and recommended that the 
whole should be placed under the direction of a 
single secretary; that in order to enable "every 
deserving person " to have within his reach attainment 
to "the highest prizes," the ranks of the Secretary's 
Office should be opened to all members of the 
establishment ; and that throughout the Department 
individual salaries should advance by annual incre- 
ments instead of by larger ones at long intervals : all 
advancements to be contingent on good conduct. 

1 The Commissioners were Lord Elcho, Sir Stafford Northcote, 
Sir Charles Trevelyan, and Mr Hoffay. 



It was also advised that, to attract suitable men, 
prospects of advancement should be held out ; that im- 
provement in provincial offices then much needed 
should be secured by allowing respective postmasters, 
under approval and in accordance with prescribed 
rules, to appoint their own clerks ; and that promotion 
should be strictly regulated according to qualification 
and merit a rule which in time must raise any 
department to the highest state of efficiency. The 
abolition of a crying evil was also advised. At 
the time in question all appointments to the office 
rested not with the Postmaster - General but with 
the Treasury, the nomination being in effect left to the 
Member of Parliament for the district where a vacancy 
occurred, provided he were a general supporter of 
the Government. It was a system which opened 
the way to many abuses, and was apt to flood the 
service with " undesirables." The Commissioners 
advised the removal of the anomaly both for obvious 
reasons and " because the power which the Post- 
master-General would possess of rewarding meritorious 
officers in his own department by promoting them 
to the charge of the important provincial offices would 
materially conduce to the general efficiency of the 
whole body." The relinquishment of patronage a 
privilege always held dear by politicians was con- 
ceded so far as to allow to the Postmaster- General the 
appointing of all postmasterships where the salary 
exceeded ^"175 a year, thus avoiding the application 
in all cases where the Post Office is held in con- 
junction with a private business or profession. A 
subsequent concession reduced the minimum to 120. 


The relinquishment of so much patronage reflected 
great credit on the Administration then in power. 1 

It is pleasant to remember that when, in after 
years, the postal reform, by its complete success, had 
proved the soundness of its author's reasoning, the 
Conservatives and " Peelites," who of old had opposed 
the Penny Postage Bill, seemed sometimes to go 
out of their way to show him friendliness. One of 
the kindest of his old opponents was Disraeli not 
yet Earl of Beaconsfield who, as Chancellor of 
the Exchequer, invited the reformer to share his 
hospitality, and especially singled out the new guest 
for attention. The first Postmaster-General to invite 
Rowland Hill to his house was his second chief, the 
Tory Lord Hardwicke, who had also asked Colonel 
Maberly, but was careful to put the two men one 
at each end of the very long table. 

When, therefore, at last (in 1854) my father was 
given the post Colonel Maberly had so long filled, 
and became thenceforth known to the world as 
Secretary to the Post Office, it was with deep 
gratification that he recorded the fact in his diary 
that "all those to whom I had on this occasion to 
return official thanks had been members of the 
Government by which, twelve years before, I had 
been dismissed from office. 2 I could not but think 
that the kind and earnest manner in which these 
gentlemen now acted proceeded in some measure 

1 " Life," ii. 245-249. 

2 These were, of course, the "Peelites" the members who, 
together with their leader, had seceded from the Tory party on 
the Free Trade question. 



from a desire to compensate me for the injustice of 
their former leader ; and this view made me even 
more grateful for their consideration." 

The old hostility between Colonel Maberly and 
Rowland Hill was scarcely likely to decrease while 
they remained, to use the sailor Postmaster-General's 
favourite expression, " two kings of Brentford." 
Colonel Maberly had never been sparing of his 
blows during the long agitation over the postal 
reform previous to its establishment ; and a dual 
authority is hardly calculated to transform opponents 
into allies. It was therefore fortunate that the 
peculiar arrangement, after enduring, with consider- 
able discomfort, for seven and a half years, was 
brought to a close. 

We all have our strong points ; and one of 
Colonel Maberly's was a happy knack of selecting 
heads of departments, the chief Secretary's immediate 
subordinates. They were an able staff of officers, 
unto whom my father always considered that the 
good reputation the Post Office enjoyed while he 
was its permanent head was largely due. With their 
aid the reformer devised and matured measures of 
improvement more rapidly than before more rapidly 
because there was now far less likelihood, when once 
authorisation had been obtained for carrying them 
out, of seeing his proposals subjected to tiresome 
modifications or indefinite delays, too often leading 
to entire abandonment. Thus he was enabled to give 
most of his time to the work of organisation, to him 
always, as he has said, "of all occupations the least 
1 "Life,"ii. 225, 226. 


difficult and the most pleasant." He encouraged his 
newly-acquired staff "to make what proved to be a 
valuable change in their mode of proceeding; for 
whereas the practice had been for these officers 
simply to select the cases requiring the judgment of 
the Secretary, and to await his instructions before 
writing their minutes thereon, I gradually induced 
them to come prepared with an opinion of their own 
which might serve in a measure for my guidance." 
This placing of confidence in able and experienced 
men had, as was but natural, excellent results. 

The arrangement of secretarial and other duties 
being now settled, reforms proceeded satisfactorily ; 
new and greatly improved post offices were erected, 
and older ones were cleared of accumulated rubbish, 
and made more habitable in many ways. It was 
found that at the General Post Office itself no sort 
of provision against the risk of fire existed an 
extraordinary state of things in a building through 
which many documents, often of great value and 
importance, were continually passing. Little time 
was lost in devising measures to remedy this and 
other defects. 

But, strange to say, in 1858 the construction and 
alteration of post office buildings was transferred 
by the Treasury to the Board of Works. Knowing 
that the change would lead to extravagance, Rowland 
Hill essayed, but quite unsuccessfully, to effect a 
reversal of this measure ; and in support of his views 
instanced a striking contrast. A new post office had 
been erected at Brighton, the cost, exclusive of a 
moderate sum expended to fit it up as a residence, 


being about 1,600. A similar building had now to 
be put up at Dundee, whose correspondence was half 
that of Brighton. The Board of Works' estimate 
came to four or five times that amount, and all that 
Rowland Hill could accomplish was to bring the cost 
down to ,5,700. 

The first of the long series of "Annual Reports 
of the Postmaster-General" was published in 1854. 
It was prefaced with an interesting historical sketch 
of the Post Office from its origin, written by Matthew 
Davenport Hill's eldest son Alfred, unto whom my 
father was further beholden for valuable assistance as 
arbitrator in the already mentioned disputes between 
the Post Office and the railway companies. The 
modern weakness of apathy most contagious of 
maladies seemed after a while to settle even on the 
Post Office, for, late in the 'nineties, the issue was 
for a time discontinued. 

One passage alone in the First Report shows how 
satisfactory was the progress made. " On the first 
day of each month a report is laid before the Post- 
master-General showing the principal improvements 
in hand, and the stage at which each has arrived. 
The latest of these reports (which is of the usual 
length) records 183 measures, in various stages of 
progress or completed during the month of December 
1854. Minor improvements, such as extension of 
rural posts, etc., are not noticed in these reports." 1 

Another small periodical publication first appeared 

in 1856, which, revised and issued quarterly, is now 

a well-known, useful little manual. This was the 

1 "Life,"ii. 267. 


British Postal Guide. Its acceptability was made 
evident by its ready sale, amounting, not long after 
its issue, to 20,000 or 30,000 copies. Two years 
later an old publication known as the Daily Packet 
List was rearranged, enlarged, and turned into a 
weekly edition, which, as the Postal Circular, accom- 
plished much useful service. Had the Treasury 
allowed the extension of the sphere of this little work, 
as recommended by the Postmaster - General and 
Rowland Hill, it could have been so extended as 
to become a postal monitor, correcting any possible 
misconceptions, and keeping the public constantly 
informed as to the real proceedings of the Post Office. 
By November 1854 the diarist was able to write 
that his " plan has been adopted, more or less 
completely, in the following States : Austria, Baden, 
Bavaria, Belgium, Brazil, Bremen, Brunswick, Chile, 
Denmark, France, Frankfort, Hamburg, Hanover, 
Lubeck, Naples, New Grenada, Netherlands, Olden- 
burg, Peru, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia, 
Saxony, Spain, Switzerland, Tuscany, United States, 
and Wurtemberg." It seems worth while to repeat 
the long list just as my father gave it, if only to show 
how much, since that time, the political geography 
of our own continent has altered, most of the tiny 
countries and all the "free cities " of mid-nineteenth- 
century Europe having since that date become 
absorbed by larger or stronger powers. It will be 
noticed that Norway and Sweden had not yet 
followed the example of the other western European 
countries. But the then "dual kingdom "did not 
long remain an exception. 


Among the first European powers to adopt the 
postal reform were, strange to say, Spain and Russia, 
neither of which was then accounted a progressive 
country. In September 1843 the Spanish ambassador 
wrote to Rowland Hill asking for information about 
postal matters, as his Government contemplated 
introducing the postage stamp, and, presumably, a 
certain amount of uniformity and low rates. Not 
long after, news came that Russia had adopted 
stamps. The chief motive in each case was, however, 
understood to be the desire to prevent fraud among 
the postmasters. 

Although Spain moved early in the matter of 
postal reform, Portugal sadly lagged behind, no new 
convention having been effected with that country, 
and, consequently, no postal improvements, save in 
marine transit, made for fifty years. In 1858, however, 
mainly through the good offices of the British Ministers 
at Madrid and Lisbon, and of Mr Edward Rea, who 
was sent out from London by the Postmaster-General 
for the purpose, better postal treaties were made, both 
with Spain and Portugal. Even with such countries 
as Belgium, Germany (the German Postal Union), 
and the United States, progress in the way of treaties 
was very slow. 

The postal revenues of all these European 
countries were smaller than our own, Portugal's 
being less than that of the city of Edinburgh. Small 
indeed is the connection between the amount of a 
country's correspondence and the number of its popu- 
lation. According to an official return published in the 
Journal de St Petersburg in 1855, the letters posted 


during the year throughout the huge empire of 
Russia were only 16,400,000, or almost the same 
number as those posted during the same year in 
Manchester and its suburbs. 

By J ^53 a low uniform rate of postage was 
established over the length and breadth of our even 
then vast Indian Empire ; a few outlying portions 
alone excepted. For many years after the introduc- 
tion of the new system, involving, as it did, complete 
adoption of Rowland Hill's plan, the Indian Post 
Office did not pay expenses; but by 1870 it became 
self-supporting. 1 

It has sometimes been asserted that, in his 
eagerness to make his reform a financial success, 
Rowland Hill cut down the wages of the lower strata 
of employees. Nothing could be more untrue. 
Economy, he believed, was to be obtained by simpler 
methods and better organisation, not by underpaying 
the workers. While at the Post Office he did much 
to improve the lot of these classes of men. Their 
wages were increased, they had greater opportunity 
of rising in the service, a pension for old age com- 
bined with assistance in effecting life assurance, 
gratuitous medical advice and medicines, 2 and an 
annual holiday without loss of pay. The number 
of working hours was limited to a daily average of 
eight, and a regulation was made that any letter- 

1 "Life,"ii. 317. 

2 A medical man had now been added to the staff, the first 
so appointed being Dr Gavin, a much - esteemed official, who 
perished untimely, if I remember rightly, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, 
during the awful visitation there of the cholera epidemic of 1853. 


carrier who, taking one day with another, found 
his work exceed that limit,, should be entitled to 
call attention to the fact and obtain assistance. An 
exhaustive enquiry was made as to the scale oi 
wages paid, the hours of work required, etc. ; an< 
the report, when published, told the world that 
the men of similar rank in other callings, such 
policemen, railway porters, and several more, wen 
not so well treated as their brethren in the post? 
service. So clearly, indeed, was this proved thai 
public endorsement of the fact was at once evidence< 
by a marked increase of applications for situation* 
as sorters, letter-carriers, etc. 

A striking proof of this recognition of a trutl 
came at first hand to Rowland Hill's knowledg< 
He was consulting an old medical friend, and in th< 
course of conversation the latter said that his footmai 
wished to obtain an appointment as letter - carrier. 
Whereupon my father pointed out that the man waj 
better off as footman, because, in addition to receiving 
good wages, he had board, lodging, and many othei 
advantages. This, answered the doctor, had alread] 
been represented to the man ; but his reply was that 
in the Post Office there was the certainty of continuity 
of employment and the pension for old age. The fact 
that the employees in a public department are not, 
like many other workers, liable at any moment to 
sent adrift by the death or impoverishment of theii 
employers, constitutes one of the strongest attraction! 
to the service. Has this circumstance any connectioi 
with the growing disinclination of the poorer classes t< 
enter domestic service ? 


In 1854 rural distribution was greatly extended, 
500 new offices being opened. This extension, it 
may be remembered, was one of several measures 
which were persistently opposed by the enemies of 
the postal reform. How much the measure was 
needed, and, when granted, how beneficial were its 
results, is shown by the fact that it was followed by 
the largest increase of letters which had taken place in 
any year since 1840, or a gain on 1853 of 32,500,000. 

The measure affected several hundreds of different 
places and a very large percentage of the entire 
correspondence of the United Kingdom. Formerly 
there were to every office limits, sometimes narrow, 
sometimes wide, beyond which there was either no 
delivery, or one made only at additional charge, 
generally of a penny a letter : an arrangement which, 
in spite of my father's repeated efforts to amend it, 
outlived the introduction of the new postal system 
for more than fourteen years, and in the districts 
thus affected partially nullified its benefits. Not until 
this and other survivals of the older state of things 
were swept away could his plan be rightly said to 
be established. 

London whose then population formed one-tenth 
and its correspondence one - fourth of the United 
Kingdom was also not neglected. It was divided 
into ten postal districts, 1 each of which was treated as 
a separate town with a local chief office in addition 
to its many minor offices. The two corps of letter- 
carriers the general postmen and those who belonged 
to the old " twopenny post" which till this time 
1 Afterwards diminished to eight. 


existed as distinct bodies of employees, were at last 
amalgamated; their "walks" were rearranged, and a 
new plan of sorting at the chief office was instituted, 
while the letters and other missives intended for the 
different districts, being sorted before they reached 
London, were no longer, as of old, sent to St 
Martin's-le-Grand, but were at once dispatched for 
distribution to the local chief office whose initials 
corresponded with those upon the covers. Door 
letter-boxes increased in number in the houses of 
the poorer as well as of the richer classes ; and the 
use, in addition to the address, on the printed head- 
ing of a letter of the initials denoting the postal 
district from which it emanated, and on the envelope 
of that where it should be delivered a use to which 
the public generally accustomed itself kindly greatly 
facilitated and expedited communication within the 
1 2 miles circuit, so that thenceforth it became possible 
to post a letter and receive its reply within the space 
of a few hours a heartily appreciated boon in the 
days when the telephone was not. As a natural 
consequence, the number of district letters grew 
apace, and the congestion at St Martin's-le-Grand 
was perceptibly lessened. At the same time, the 
Board of Works to some extent amended the 
nomenclature of the streets and the numbering of 
houses. The most important delivery of the day, 
the first, was accelerated by two hours ; in some oi 
the suburbs by two and a half hours. That is, the 
morning's letters were distributed at nine o'clock 
instead of at half-past eleven. Since that time, and 
for many years now, the delivery has been made at 


or before eight o'clock. Nothing facilitated these 
earlier deliveries more than the sorting of letters 
en route ; and the practice also enabled more frequent 
deliveries to be made. Improved communication with 
the colonies and foreign countries, through better 
treaties, was likewise effected ; and each improvement 
was rendered easier by the rapid growth everywhere 
of railways and shipping companies, and the increased 
speed of trains and steam-ships. 

In 1855 "the system of promotion by merit," 
recommended by my father and endorsed with 
approval by the Civil Service Commissioners "was 
brought into full operation. In the three metro- 
politan offices, when a vacancy occurred application 
for appointment was open to all ; the respective 
claims were carefully compared, and, without the 
admission of any other consideration whatever, the 
claim which was adjudged to be best carried the day. 
To keep our course free from disturbing influences, 
it was laid down that any intercession from without 
in favour of individual officers should act, if not 
injuriously, at least not beneficially, on the advance- 
ment of those concerned." . . . " By the transfer to 
the Post Office of appointment to all the higher 
postmasterships, opportunity for promotion was greatly 
enlarged, and posts formally bestowed for political 
services now became the rewards of approved merit. 
This change obviously involved great improvement 
in the quality of the persons thus entrusted with 
powers and duties of no small importance to the 
public. In the provincial offices a corresponding 
improvement was, in great measure, secured by 


delegating the power of appointing their subordi- 
nates, under certain restrictions, to the respective 
postmasters, who, being themselves responsible for 
the good working of their offices, were naturally led 
to such selection as would best conduce to that 
end. This delegation, so far as related to clerks, 
was made on the recommendation of the Civil Service 
Commissioners ; and the trust being satisfactorily 
exercised, was subsequently extended to the appoint- 
ment of letter-carriers also." The measure worked 
well. " From the different departments of the metro- 
politan offices, and from the provincial surveyors the 
reports of its operation were almost uniformly satis- 
factory. Officers were found to take more personal 
interest in their duties, to do more work without 
augmentation of force, to make up in some degree 
by additional zeal for the increased yearly holiday 
that was granted them, and to discharge their duties 
with more cheerfulness and spirit, knowing that good 
service would bring eventual reward." 

The new system of promotion by merit worked 
far better than that of the Commissioners' examina- 
tions for admission to the Civil Service. As regards 
the letter-carriers, it has always been found that the 
men best fitted for this duty were those whose 
previous life had inured them to bodily labour and 
endurance of all kinds of weather. The new educa- 
tional requirements in many instances excluded these 
people, while giving easy admission to shopmen, 
clerks, servants, and others accustomed to indoor 
and even sedentary life, who were little fitted to 
1 "Life,"ii. 298-301. 


perform a postman's rounds. The Duke of Argyll, 
then Postmaster - General, requested the Commis- 
sioners to adopt a somewhat lower standard of 
acquirement. At the same time he authorised the 
subjection of candidates for the office of letter-carriers 
to a stricter test as regards bodily strength, with the 
result that about one man in every four was rejected. 
By these means, and the greater attention paid to 
the laws of sanitation in offices and private dwellings, 
the health of the department gradually reached a 
high standard. 

That the plan of confining admission to the service 
to candidates who have passed the Civil Service 
examinations is not without its drawbacks, is seen 
by the following extract from a Report by Mr Abbott, 
Secretary to the Post Office in Scotland. " Consider- 
ing," he says, " the different duties of the account, the 
secretary's and the sorting branches, I am inclined to 
believe that the examination should have more special 
reference to the vacancy the candidate is to fill than 
to his general knowledge on certain subjects proposed 
for all in the same class, more especially as regards 
persons nominated to the sorting office, where manual 
dexterity, quick sight, and physical activity are more 
valuable than mere educational requirements." 1 

As may be surmised by the foregoing, Rowland 
Hill was one of the many clear-sighted men who 
declined to yield unquestioning approbation to the 
system of competitive examinations introduced by 
the Civil Service Commissioners ; nor did longer 

1 "Life," ii. 300. At this time the Post Office staff numbered 
over 24,000, of whom more than 3,000 served in the London district. 


acquaintance with it tend to modify his opinion on 
the subject. The scheme, he thought, " worked 
unsatisfactorily, the criteria not being the best, and 
the responsibility being so divided that no one is 
in effect answerable for an appointment made under 
it. The consequence of its adoption has been, in 
many instances, the rejection of men who gave 
promise of great usefulness, and the admission of 
others whose usefulness has proved very small. 1 
If no way had been open to the public service but 
through competitive examination as now conducted, 
I cannot say what might have been my own chance 
of admission, since on the plan adopted, no amount 
of knowledge or power in other departments is 
regarded as making up for deficiency in certain 
prescribed subjects. Under such a system neither 
George Stephenson nor Brindley would have passed 
examination as an engineer, nor perhaps would 
Napoleon or Wellington have been admitted to any 
military command. The principle, if sound, must be 
equally applicable to manufacturing and commercial 

1 A thirty or more years old example of this rejection returns to 
memory. A young man a born soldier, and son to a distinguished 
officer in the Engineers failed to pass the inevitable Army examina- 
tion. The subject over which he broke down was some poem of 
Chaucer's, I think the immortal Prologue to The Canterbury Tales 
that wonderful collection of masterly-drawn portaits of men and 
women who must have been living people over five hundred years 
ago. Even an ardent lover of him " whose sweet breath preluded 
those melodious bursts that fill the spacious times of great Elizabeth 
with sounds that echo still," has never yet been able to perceive 
what connection the strains of "Dan Chaucer, the first warbler," 
can have with the science of modern warfare. The born soldier, 
it was said, was fain to turn ranchman in the American Far West. 


establishments, but I have heard of none that have 
adopted it. Indeed, a wealthy merchant lately 
declared (and I believe most of his brethren would 
agree with him) that if he had no clerks but such 
as were chosen for him by others, his name would 
soon be in the Gazette. I have always been of 
opinion that the more the appointments to the 
Post Office, and indeed to other departments, are 
regulated on the principles ordinarily ruling in 
establishments conducted by private individuals, the 
better it will be for the public service. The question 
to be decided between candidates should be, I 
think, simply which is best fitted for the duties to 
be performed ; and the decision should be left to 
the person immediately answerable for the right 
performance of the duty." 1 

1 As regards this oft-discussed matter, it seems that Herbert 
Spencer was of like mind with my father. Speaking in his 
"Autobiography of Edison," the great philosopher says that "that 
remarkable, self-educated man" was of opinion that "college-bred 
men were of no use to him. It is astonishing," continues Herbert 
Spencer, "how general, among distinguished engineers, has been 
the absence of education, or of high education. James Brindley 
and George Stephenson were without any early instruction at all : 
the one taught himself writing when an apprentice, and the other 
put himself to school when a grown man. Telford too, a shepherd 
boy, had no culture beyond that which a parish school afforded. 
Though Smeaton and Rennie and Watt had the discipline of 
grammar schools, and two of them that of High Schools, yet in 
no case did they pass through a curriculum appropriate to the 
profession they followed. Another piece of evidence, no less 
remarkable, is furnished by the case of Sir Benjamin Baker, who 
designed and executed the Forth Bridge the greatest and most 
remarkable bridge in the world, I believe. He received no regular 
engineering instruction. Such men who, more than nearly all 
other men, exercise constructive imagination, and rise to distinction 


While tranquillity reigned at St Martin's-le- Grand 
from, and long after, 1854, not only among the 
heads of departments, but generally throughout the 
office, and while reports from all quarters, metropolitan 
and provincial, bore testimony to efficient work 
accomplished and good conduct maintained, it was 
inevitable that in a body so numerous as was that 
of the lower* grade employees some amount of dis- 
content should arise. Promotion by merit, in what- 
ever class, has few charms in the eyes of those 
who are deficient in the very quality which insures 
promotion, and who, perhaps for many years, have 
drawn steady payment for ordinary duty so performed 
as to become scarcely more than nominal. In every 
large community there are certain to be some "bad 
bargains " who, though practically useless as workers, 
have often abundant capacity for giving trouble, 
especially, maybe, in the way of fomenting a spirit 
of mutiny. l 

only when they are largely endowed with this faculty, seem thus 
to show by implication the repressive influence of an educational 
system which imposes ideas from without instead of evolving them 
from within." ("Autobiography," i. 337, 338.) The remarks are 
the outcome of Herbert Spencer's perusal of a biographical sketch 
of the celebrated engineer, John Ericsson. In this occurred a 
significant passage : " When a friend spoke to him with regret 
of his not having been graduated from some technical institute, 
he answered that the fact, on the other hand, was very fortunate. 
If he had taken a course at such an institution, he would have 
acquired such a belief in authority that he would never have been 
able to develop originality and make his own way in physics and 

1 In writing of the discontents which occasionally troubled the 
postal peace during the mid-nineteenth century, it must be clearly 
understood that no allusion is intended to those of later times. 


At the Post Office this spirit manifested itself 
even while every care was being taken to ameliorate 
the condition of this multitudinous class of employees, 
and to rectify individual cases of hardship, and while, 
even during the time of insubordination, many re- 
spectable men outside the postal walls were showing 
their appreciation of the advantage of a letter-carrier's 
position over that of men of like class in other 
callings, by applying for appointment to that corps. 
Misrepresentation is a principal factor in stimulating 
disaffection, and, for reasons other than sympathy 
with the alleged victims of supposed tyrannical 
employers, is sometimes, though, happily, rarely, 
employed by those who, as non-officials, are sheltered 
by anonymity as well as by extraneity from participa- 
tion in such punishment as may befall the better- 
known disaffected. 

From an early period of Rowland Hill's career 
at the Post Office he was subjected to almost constant 
personal attacks on the part of a certain weekly 
newspaper. Many were written with considerable 
plausibility, but all were void of substantial truth, 
while others were entire fabrications. All too were 
of the sort which no self-respecting man condescends 
to answer, yet which, perhaps all the more on account 
of that contemptuous silence, do infinite harm, and 
by an unthinking public are readily believed. Many 
of these attacks were traced to men who had left 

In this story of an old reform the latest year at the Post Office 
is 1864 ; therefore, since this is a chronicle of " ancient history " only, 
comments on the troubles of modern days, which the chronicler 
does not profess to understand, shall be scrupulously avoided. 


the postal service to the no small advantage of that 
service and whose dismissal was supposed to be 
the work of the permanent postal head ; and one 
such man at least, a scribe with a ready pen, and 
ink in which the ingredient gall was over-liberally 
mingled, vented his spleen during a long succession 
of years with a perseverance worthy a better cause. 
As the newspaper in question had rather a wide 
circulation since when did harmful literature fail to 
meet ready sale ? and the postal employees were, 
in many cases, no wiser than their fellow-readers, it 
was perhaps not unnatural that the attacks, which 
were directed more frequently and angrily against 
the postal reformer than against his colleagues, should 
meet with credence. "It certainly was rather ill- 
timed," says Rowland Hill, on hearing 1 of a 
particularly vicious libel, " for in the previous month 
(November 1858) I had induced the Treasury to 
abandon its intention of issuing an order forbidding 
the receipt of Christmas boxes, and also had obtained 
some improvement in their scale of wages, the 
Treasury granting even more than was applied 
for." 2 

It was not long before the agitation assumed a still 
more serious form, no fewer than three anonymous 
letters threatening assassination being received at 
short intervals by the harassed reformer. The heads 
of the different postal departments, becoming alarmed 

1 He never wasted his time in reading the attacks, even when 
some good-natured friend occasionally asked : " Have you seen what 
Blank has just written about you ? " 

2 "Life,"ii. 328. 


for the safety of the permanent chiefs life, advised his 
temporary absence from the Office ; and Mr Peacock, 
its solicitor, who knew that an expert had satisfied 
himself and others that the handwriting of the first 
of these letters could be traced to a certain postman 
who had been giving much trouble of late, proposed 
immediate arrest and prosecution. But, on comparing 
the suspected man's actual handwriting with that, 
disguised though it was, of the anonymous letter, 
Rowland Hill disagreed with the expert's view, and 
refused assent to so drastic a proceeding ; happily 
so, for later circumstances seemed to point to justifica- 
tion of the adverse opinion. My father also declined 
to absent himself from the Office, and even when 
a fourth letter appeared, in which were mentioned 
the place, day, and hour when the fatal blow would 
be struck, he still, as was his custom, walked the 
last half mile of his way to work, armed only with 
his umbrella, and on the fateful occasion passed the 
indicated spot without encountering harm of any 
kind. Later than this, somehow, word of the anony- 
mous letters reached my mother's ears, though not, 
of course, through her husband ; and thenceforth she 
made it her daily practice to drive down to the 
Post Office, and accompany him home. 

This episode would hardly be worth the telling did 
it not serve to show how little need there generally 
is to pay attention to letters, however threatening, 
when written by persons who dare riot reveal their 
identity. On occasions of this sort memory brings 
back to mind the story of the brave Frenchman 
who at the time of the Franco-German war wrote 


to the then newly - proclaimed German Emperor, 
William I., at Versailles, to remind him of sundry 
ugly passages in his life, and to threaten him with 
condign punishment the writer being a near neigh- 
bour, and appending to his letter his actual name 
and address. This man at least had the courage 
of his opinions. The anonymous scribbler is seldom 
so valorous. 

In 1858 "The Post Office Library and Literary 
Association " was established, the institution being 
aided by the delivery of lectures, an enterprise in 
which several of the leading officials participated. 
Mr West gave a fascinating discourse on etymology ; 
and Rowland Hill took his turn by lecturing on the 
annular eclipse of the sun (" visible at Green- 
wich ") which happened in that year. 1 In 1859 similar 
institutions were started at most of the London district 
offices, and in some provincial towns. 

When the volunteer movement was in the heyday 
of its youth, the Post Office was one of the earliest 
of the great public departments to establish a corps 
of its own, .whose exploits were humorously related 
by " Ensign " Edmund Yates, under the heading 
"The Grimgribber Rifle Volunteers," in several 

1 Some of us enjoyed a capital view of the eclipse at Swindon 
in fine weather and pleasant company. Our friend, Mr W. H. Wills, 
who was also present, wrote an amusing account of the eclipse 
appending to it, however, a pretty story which never happened 
in Household Words. The eclipse was soon over, but the great 
astronomical treat of the year was, of course, Donati's unforgettable 
comet, "a thing of beauty," though unfortunately not "a joy for 
ever," which blazed magnificently in the northern hemisphere for 
some few weeks. 


numbers of All the Year Round of the period. The 
l:orps became amalgamated with the " Civil Service' 1 
volunteer force, of which fine body it was perhaps 
the pioneer company. 

"I wrote," says Rowland Hill, "to the Post- 
Imaster-General, Lord Colchester, on the subject (of 
raising a volunteer corps), and obtained his ready 
sanction. Upon my communicating with the heads 
pf departments, I was told that there would be 
readiness enough to volunteer if only the expenses 
[could be provided for, or reduced to a low rate ; 
fchat the men would willingly give their time, 
put thought it somewhat unreasonable that there 
[should be a demand for their money also. The 
Idifficulty was overcome by the same means, and I 
(suppose to about the same extent, as in other corps ; 
but from that day to this I have been unable to 
{understand the policy or propriety of making men 
pay for liberty to serve their country, a practice 
which must, in the nature of things, debar large 
numbers from enrolment. The movement was not 
limited to the chief office, and was especially 
satisfactory at Edinburgh." 1 

In July 1859 Sir Edward Baines, proprietor of 
the Leeds Mercury, wrote to introduce to Rowland 
Hill the inventor of the Post Office Savings 2 Bank 
scheme, Mr (afterwards Sir) Charles Sikes, a banker 

1 "Life,"ii. 334. 

2 Here was another reformer from outside the Post Office. Yet 
one more was Sir Douglas Galton, who first proposed that the Post 
Office should take over the telegraphic system. His father-in-law, 
Mr Nicholson of Waverley Abbey, sent the then Captain Galton's 
paper on the subject to Rowland Hill in 1852. The communication 


of Huddersfield a scheme which has been a great 
convenience to people of limited means. Depositors 
and deposits have increased, till the modest venture 
launched in 1860, under the auspices of the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, Mr Gladstone, has grown into a 
colossal undertaking. Sir Charles, with characteristic 
lack of self-advertisement, never sought reward of 
any kind for the good work he had initiated. He 
was satisfied with the knowledge that it had proved 
of immense benefit to his fellow - men. He long 
survived the carrying into practical shape of his 
scheme ; and now that he is dead, his invention has, 
of course, been claimed by or for others. 

The postal reform is one which, save as regards 
its most salient features, has been established some- 
what on the "gradual instalment system," each 
instalment, as a rule, coming into operation after a 
hard struggle on the part of its promoter, and 
several years later than when first proposed. Pre- 
payment of postage, for example, one of the most 
essential parts of my father's plan, was long allowed 
to remain optional, although he had " counted upon 
universal prepayment as an important means towards 

being private, my father replied also privately, giving the project 
encouragement, and leaving Captain Galton to take the next step. 
He submitted his plan to the Board of Trade, whence it was 
referred to the Post Office. The Postmaster - General, Lord 
Hardwicke, did not view the scheme with favour, and it was 
dropped, to be resumed later within the Office itself. Had Captain 
Galton's proposals been resolutely taken up in 1852, the British 
taxpayers might have been spared the heavy burden laid upon them 
when, nearly twenty years later, the State purchase of the Telegraphs 
was effected " at a cost at once so superfluous and so enormous." 
("Life,''ii. 251, 252.) 


[simplifying the accounts, with consequent economy 
of time and expense, the expedient of double postage 
on post - payment being regarded as a temporary 
mode of avoiding the difficulties naturally attending 
a transition state ; and though hitherto deferring the 
measure to more pressing matters, I had always 
looked forward to a time suitable for taking the step 
necessary to the completion of my plan. The almost 
universal resort to prepayment had rendered accounts 
of postage very short and easy, but obviously 
universal practice alone could render them altogether 
unnecessary." 1 

The attempt to make prepayment compulsory was 
renewed in 1859, the proportion of unpaid letters 
having by that date become very small. But the 
public generally were insensible to the advantage to 
the service which economy of time and labour must 
secure, while the few active malcontents who thought 
themselves qualified to be a law unto themselves, if 
not to others, raised so much clamour that it was 
considered advisable to postpone issue of the edict. 
An error of judgment, perhaps, since the public soon 
becomes accustomed to any rule that is at once just 
and easy to follow ; as indeed had already been shown 
by the readiness entirely contrary to official prediction 
with which prepayment had, from the first, been 
accepted. After all, submission to compulsory pre- 
payment of our postage is not one whit more slavish 
than submission to compulsory prepayment of our 
railway and other vehicular fares, a gentle form of 
coercion to which even those of us who are the 
i "Life," ii. 335. 


most revolutionary of mind assent with exemplary 

So far back as I842 1 Rowland Hill had 
recommended the establishment of a parcel post, 
but, although renewing his efforts both in 1858 and 
1863, h e was forced to leave accomplishment of this 
boon to later reformers. In the last - named year, 
however, the pattern post came into operation. 

In 1862 he was able to make important alterations 
in the registration of letters. Allusion has already 
been made to the ancient quarrel between a former 
Postmaster-General and my father over the amount 
of fee, the political head of the office wishing to keep 
it at is., Rowland Hill to reduce it to 6d., a reduc- 
tion easily obtained when in 1846 the latter entered 
the Post Office. A largely increased number of 
registered letters had been the result. The fee was 
now still further reduced, the reduction being followed 
by an even larger increase of registered letters ; while 
the registration of coin - bearing letters was at last 
made compulsory. Before 1862 coins had often been 
enclosed in unregistered letters, at times so carelessly 
that their presence was evident, and abstraction easy. 
As a natural consequence, misappropriation was not 
infrequent. After the passing of this necessary en- 
actment the losses diminished rapidly ; the number of 
letters containing money posted in the second half 
of that year increased to about 900,000, and the 
number of those which failed to reach their destina- 
tion was only twelve. 

1 "Report of the Select Committee on Postage (1843)," p. 41. 
Also "Life,"ii. 336. 


While it is undeniable that occasionally a letter- 
carrier or sorter has been responsible for the dis- 
appearance of some articles at times of great value 
entrusted to the care of the department, the public 
itself is frequently very far from blameless. As has 
already been shown, carelessness that can only be 
called culpable sometimes throws temptation in the 
men's way. In the course of a single twelvemonths, 
nearly 31,000 letters entirely unaddressed were posted, 
many of which contained money whose sum total 
amounted to several thousands of pounds. 

The number of things lost in the post through 
negligence to enclose them in properly secured covers, 
or through placing them in covers which are im- 
perfectly addressed or not addressed at all, so that 
sometimes neither sender nor intended recipient can 
be traced, is very great. In one twelvemonths alone 
the accumulations at the Dead Letter Office sold 
at auction by order of the Postmaster-General com- 
prised almost every description of wearing apparel 
from socks up to sealskin jackets and suits of clothing, 
Afghan, Egyptian, and South African war medals, 
a Khedive's Star, a pearl necklace, some boxes of 
chocolate, a curious Transvaal coin, and several 
thousands of postage stamps. Did none of the losers 
dream of applying for repossession of their property 
ere it passed under the auctioneer's hammer ; or did 
they resign themselves to the less troublesome assump- 
tion that the things had been stolen ? 

Simply to avoid payment of the registration fee 
whose present amount can hardly be found burden- 
some people will hide money or other valuables in 


some covering material that is inexpensive, or that 
may be useful to the recipient, such as butter, 
puddings, etc., which are sent off by the yet cheaper 
parcel post. One of the most flagrant cases of 
deception was that of a lady living in Siam, who 
dispatched to the old country several packages said 
to contain stationery and walking-sticks, and valued 
at j t i os. od. Suspicion was aroused perhaps by 
the odd combination of treasures and the parcels 
were opened, when the " stationery and walking- 
sticks " of modest value resolved themselves into a 
superb collection of diamonds and other jewels worth 
about .25,000. 

The Post Office is often reproached for slowness 
or unwillingness to adopt new ways ; and, as a rule, 
the accusations are accompanied by brilliant and 
highly original witticisms, in which figure the con- 
temptuous words " red tape." For the apparent lack 
of official zeal, the reproaching public itself is often 
to blame. Its passion dating from long past times, 
yet far from moribund for defrauding the department 
which, on the whole, serves it so well, yet with so 
few thanks and so many scoldings, is one chief bar 
to possible reforms. When, for example, the book- 
post was established in I846, 1 all sorts of things which 

1 Professor de Morgan was one of the many literary and scientific 
men who took an interest in the book-post when first proposed. 
At the outset it was intended that no writing of any sort, not even 
the name of owner or donor, should be inscribed in a volume 
so sent, but the Professor descanted so ably and wittily on the 
hardship of thus ruling out of transit an innocent book, merely 
because, a century or more ago, some hand had written on its 
fly-leaf, " Anne Pryse, her boke ; God give her grace therein to 


had no right to be where they were found used to be 
hidden between the pages. In one instance, a watch 
was concealed in an old volume, within whose middle 
leaves a deep hole had been excavated which was 
artfully covered over by the outside binding and by 
several pages at the beginning and end of the book. 
To the casual observer it therefore presented an 
innocent appearance, but fell victim to post-official, 
lynx-eyed investigation. 

" With every desire to give the public all possible 
facilities," wrote my father in his diary, " we were 
often debarred from so doing by the tricks and 
evasions which too frequently followed any relaxation 
of our rules/' 

Even the great Macaulay transgressed strict 
postal regulations, being in the habit, as his nephew 
tells us in one of the most delightful biographies 

loke," that not even the hardest-hearted official, and certainly not 
my father, could have said him nay ; and by this time any writing, 
short of a letter, is allowed. The Professor had a wonderfully- 
shaped head, his forehead towards the top being abnormally 
prominent. He was devoted to mathematics, and gave much time 
to their study ; thus it used to be said by those who could not 
otherwise account for his strange appearance, that the harder he 
worked at his favourite study the keener grew the contest between 
the restraining frontal bones and protruding brain, the latter 
perceptibly winning the day. A delightful talker was this great 
mathematician, also a pugilistic person, and on occasion not above 
using his fists with effect. One day he was summoned for an 
assault, and duly appeared in the police court. "I was walking 
quietly along the street," began the victim, " when Professor de 

Morgan came straight up to me " " That's a lie ! " exclaimed 

the disgusted mathematician. " I came up to you at an angle of 
forty-five degrees." This anecdote has been given to several eminent 
men, but Professor de Morgan was its real hero. 



ever written, of sending him, when a school - boy, 
letters fastened with sealing-wax, the seal hiding the 
welcome golden "tip." As the use of seals has 
almost entirely died out, and sealed missives, even in 
Macaulay's time, were coming to be looked at with 
suspicion as probably containing something worth 
investigation by those through whose hands they 
pass, the boy was fortunate in that his uncle's letters 
reached him safely. 

Very unreasonable, and sometimes downright 
absurd, are many complaints made by the public. 
A lady once wrote to the authorities saying that 
whereas at one time she always received her letters 
in the morning, they now only reached her in the 
evening. The fact was that, through the making 
of better arrangements, the letters which used to 
come in with the matutinal tea and toast were now 
delivered over-night. 

The following is a rather curious story of theft. 
The cook in a gentleman's family residing at Harrow 
one day received an unregistered letter from Hagley, 
near Birmingham, which, when posted, contained a 
watch. On reaching its destination the cover was 
found to enclose a couple of pebbles only. She at 
once went to her master for advice. An eminent 
geologist was dining at the house. When he saw 
the enclosures, he said : " These are Harrow pebbles ; 
no such stones could be found at Hagley." This 
showed that the letter must have been tampered with 
at the Harrow end of the journey. The postal 
authorities were communicated with, and an official 
detective was sent to Harrow to make enquiries. 


Something about the letter had, it seems, attracted 
notice at the local post office perhaps the watch had 
ticked which proved that the packet was intact when 
handed to the letter-carrier for delivery. He had not, 
however, given the letter to the cook, but to the 
butler, who passed it on to the cook. The delinquent, 
then, must be either the letter-carrier or the butler. 
The letter-carrier had been long in the postal service, 
and bore an excellent character. Suspicion therefore 
pointed to the butler. He was called into the dining- 
room, and interrogated. He denied all knowledge of 
the watch, and declared he had given the packet to 
the cook exactly as he had received it. But while the 
interrogation was proceeding, his boxes were being 
examined ; and, although no watch was found in any, 
the searchers came upon some things belonging to 
his master. Taxed with their theft, the man pleaded 
guilty, but once more disclaimed all knowledge of the 
watch. On some pretext he was allowed to leave 
the room, when he retired to the pantry, and there 
committed suicide. 

As time wore on, during the ten years which 
followed 1854 and my father's appointment as Secre- 
tary to the Post Office, he sometimes found that his 
earlier estimate of former opponents was a mistake. 
When on the eve of entering the Post Office in 1846, 
he was, for instance, especially advised to get rid of 
Mr Bokenham, the head of the Circulation Depart- 
ment. 1 The new-comer, however, soon learned to 

1 By shear ability, industry, and steadiness, Mr Bokenham had 
worked himself up from a humble position to high rank in the Post 
Office. One day a rough but pleasant-looking man of the lower 


appreciate at their just value Mr Bokenham's sterling 
qualities both in official and private life. So far from 
" inviting him to resign," my father, unasked, moved 
for and obtained that improvement in position and 
salary which his ex -adversary so thoroughly well 
deserved, and which any less disinterested man would 
probably have secured for himself long before. Nor 
was Mr Bokenham's the only instance of genuine 
worth rewarded by well-merited promotion in position 
or salary, or both. 

Another former strong opponent had been Mr 
William Page, unto whose efforts the successful 
conclusion of that treaty, known as " The Postal 
Union," which enables us to correspond with foreign 
nations for 2|d. the half-ounce, was largely due. At 
the present day 2-J-d. seems scarcely to deserve the 
term "cheap" postage, but in the middle of the 
nineteenth century it was a reduction to rejoice 
over. No visitor was more welcome to our house 
than Mr Page, who was one of the most genial 
and least self-seeking of men. He was a staunch 
" Maberlyite," and, even when most friendly with 
us, never concealed his attachment to the man to 
whom he owed much kindness, as well as his own 
well-deserved advancement, and the appointment to 
the postal service of his two younger brothers. This 
unswerving loyalty to a former chief naturally made 

agricultural class came to London from his and Mr Bokenham's 
native East Anglia, and called at St Martin's-le-Grand. "What! 
Bill Bokenham live in a house of this size ! " he exclaimed. He 
had taken the imposing, but far from beautiful edifice built in 1829 
for his cousin's private residence. 


us hold Mr Page in still warmer esteem, since the 
worship of the risen sun is much more common and 
much less heroic than is that of the luminary which 
has definitely set. When my father died, Mr Page, 
at once and uninvited, cut short an interesting and 
much-needed holiday in Normandy because he knew 
we should all wish him to be present at the funeral. 

But although the situation at the Post Office 
greatly improved after the chief opponent's transla- 
tion to another sphere of usefulness, the old hostility 
to the reform and reformer did not die out, being 
in some directions scotched merely, and not killed. 

One of the most prominent among the irreconcil- 
ables was the novelist, Anthony Trollope. But as 
he was a surveyor, which means a postal bird of 
passage or official comet of moderate orbit regularly 
moving on its prescribed course, with only periodic 
appearances at St Martin's - le - Grand, he did not 
frequently come into contact with the heads there. 
He was an indefatigable worker ; and many of his 
novels were partly written in railway carriages while 
he was journeying from one post town to another, 
on official inspection bent. On one occasion he was 
brought to our house, and a most entertaining and 
lively talker we found him to be. But somehow 
our rooms seemed too small for his large, vigorous 
frame, and big, almost stentorian voice. Indeed, he 
reminded us of Dickens's Mr Boythorn, minus the 
canary, and gave us the impression that the one 
slightly-built chair on which he rashly seated him- 
self during a great part of the interview, must 
infallibly end in collapse, and sooner rather than 


later. After about a couple of hours of our society, 
he apparently found us uncongenial company ; and 
perhaps we did not take over kindly to him, how- 
ever keen our enjoyment, then and afterwards, of 
his novels and his talk. He has left a record in 
print of the fact that he heartily detested the Hills, 
who have consoled themselves by remembering that 
when a man has spent many years in writing 
romance, the trying of his hand, late in life, at 
history, is an exceedingly hazardous undertaking. 
In fact, Trollope's old associates at the Post Office 
were in the habit of declaring that his " Autobio- 
graphy " was one of the greatest, and certainly not 
the least amusing, of his many works of fiction. 

But Anthony Trollope had quite another side to 
his character beside that of novelist and Hill-hater, 
a side which should not be lost sight of. In 1859 
he was sent out to the West Indies on official 
business ; and, although a landsman, he was able 
to propose a scheme of steamer routes more con- 
venient and more economical than those in existence, 
"and, in the opinion of the hydrographer to the 
Admiralty, superior to them even in a nautical point 
of view." 1 Nevertheless, the scheme had to wait 
long for adoption. Indeed, what scheme for better- 
ment has not to wait long ? 

Whenever my father met with any foreign visitors 
of distinction, he was bound, sooner or later, to ask 
them about postal matters in their own country. 
The examined were of all ranks, from the King of 
the Belgians to Garibaldi, the Italian patriot, whom 
1 " Life," ii. 288. 


he met at a public banquet, and presently questioned 
as to the prospects of penny postage in Italy. 
Garibaldi's interest in the subject was but languid ; 
the sword with him was evidently a more congenial 
weapon than the pen or postage stamp. When, 
later, Rowland Hill told his eldest brother of the 
unsatisfactory interview, the latter was greatly 
amused, and said : "When you go to Heaven I fore- 
see that you will stop at the gate to enquire of 
St Peter how many deliveries they have a day, and 
how the expense of postal communication between 
Heaven and the other place is defrayed." 

To the year 1862 belongs a veracious anecdote, 
which, although it has no relation to postal history, 
is worth preserving from oblivion because its heroine 
is a lady of exalted rank, who is held in universal 
respect. In connection with the Great Exhibition 
of that year, whose transplanted building has since 
been known as the Alexandra Palace of North 
London, my father came to know the Danish Pro- 
fessor Forchammer ; and, when bound for the Post 
Office, often took his way through the Exhibition, 
then in Hyde Park, and the Danish Section in 
particular. One morning he found the Professor 
very busy superintending a rearrangement of the 
pictures there. A portrait had just been taken from 
the line in order that another, representing a very 
attractive-looking young lady, which had previously 
been " skied," might be put into the more important 
place. The young lady's father had not yet become 
a king, and the family was by no means wealthy, 
which combination of circumstances perhaps accounted 


for the portrait's former inconspicuous position. On 
my father's asking the reason for the change, Professor 
Forchammer replied that a great number of people 
was expected to visit that Section to-day to look 
at the portrait, and it was imperative that it should 
be given the best place there, in consequence of the 
announcement just made public that the original 
was " engaged to marry your Prince of Wales." 

My father parted with great regret from Lord 
Clanricarde when the Russell Administration went 
out of office. His kindness and courtesy, his aptitude 
for work, his good sense and evident sincerity, had 
caused the '* Secretary to the Postmaster-General," 
after a service of nearly six years, to form a very 
high opinion of his chief. 1 

Lord Clanricarde's successor, Lord Hardwicke, 
belonged to the rough diamond species ; yet he tried 
his hardest to fulfil intelligently and conscientiously 
the duties of his novel and far from congenial office. 
He had a cordial dislike to jobbery of any kind, 
though once at least he came near to acquiescing 
in a Parliamentary candidate's artfully-laid plot sug- 
gesting the perpetration of a piece of lavish and 
unnecessary expenditure in a certain town, the out- 
lay to synchronise with the candidate's election, and 
the merit to be claimed by him. Happily, Lord 
Hardwicke's habitual lack of reticence gave wiser 
heads the weapon with which to prevent so flagrant 
a job from getting beyond the stage of mere sug- 

1 In Edmund Yates's " Recollections " many pleasant stories are 
told of Lord Clanricarde, to whose kindness indeed the author owed 
his appointment to the Post Office. 



gestion. It was the man's kind heart and dislike 
to give offence which doubtless led him into indiscre- 
tions of the sort ; but amiable as he was, he had 
at times a knack of making people feel extremely 
uncomfortable, as when, in conformity with his own 
ideas on the subject, he sought to regulate the mutual 
relations of the two chief Secretaries, when he called 
in all latchkeys his own, however, included and 
when, during his first inspection of his new kingdom, 
he audibly asked, on entering a large room full of 
employees, if he had "the power to dismiss all 
these men." The old sailor aimed at ruling the 
Post Office as he had doubtless ruled his man-of-war, 
wasted time and elaborate minutes on trivial matters 
such as a return of the number of housemaids 
employed when important reforms needed attention, 
and had none of the ability or breadth of view of 
his predecessor. 

Lord Canning was my father's next chief, and 
soon showed himself to be an earnest friend to postal 
reform. It was while he was Postmaster-General, 
and mainly owing to his exertions, that in 1854 
fulfilment was at last made of the promise given 
by Lord John Russell's Government, to place the 
author of Penny Postage at the head of the great 
department which controlled the country's correspond- 
ence a promise in consideration of which Rowland 
Hill, in 1846, had willingly sacrificed so much. 
When Lord Canning left the Post Office to become 
Governor-General of India, my father felt as if he 
had lost a life-long friend ; and he followed with 
deep interest his former chiefs career in the Far 


East. During the anxious time of struggle with 
the Mutiny, nothing pained my father more than the 
virulent abuse which was often levelled at the far- 
seeing statesman whose wise and temperate rule 
contributed so largely to preserve to his country pos- 
session of that " brightest jewel of the crown" at a 
season when most people in Britain lost their senses 
in a wild outburst of fury. Lord Canning's manage- 
ment of India won, from the first, his ex-lieutenant's 
warmest admiration. The judgment of posterity 
often more discerning, because less heated, than 
contemporaneous opinion has long since decided 
that " Clemency Canning" did rightly. The nick- 
name was used as a reproach at the time, but the 
later title of "The Lord Durham of India" is 
meant as a genuine compliment, or, better still, 
appreciation. 1 

1 "The close of his career as Postmaster-General," wrote my 
father many years later, "was highly characteristic. For some 
reason it was convenient to the Government that he should retain 
his office until the very day of his departure for the East. Doubtless 
it was expected that this retention would be little more than nominal, 
or that, at most, he would attend to none but the most pressing 
business, leaving to his successor all such affairs as admitted of 
delay. When I found that he continued to transact business just 
as usual, while I knew that he must be encumbered with every kind 
of preparation, official, personal, and domestic, I earnestly pressed 
that course upon him, but in vain ; he would leave no arrears, and 
every question, great or small, which he had been accustomed to 
decide was submitted to him as usual to the last hour of his 
remaining in the country. Nor was decision even then made 
heedlessly or hurriedly, but, as before, after full understanding. 
... In common with the whole world, I regarded his premature 
death as a severe national calamity. He was earnest and energetic 
in the moral reform of the Post Office, and had his life been longer 


The Duke of Argyll he of the " silvern tongue " 
succeeded Lord Canning, and showed the same 
aptitude for hard work which had distinguished his 
predecessors. His quickness of apprehension, prompti- 
tude in generalisation, and that facility in composition 
which made of his minutes models of literary style, 
were unusually great. When he left the Post Office 
he addressed to its Secretary a letter of regret at 
parting an act of courtesy said to be rare. The 
letter was couched in the friendliest terms, and the 
regret was by no means one-sided. 

Lord Colchester, the Postmaster- General in Lord 
Derby's short - lived second Administration, was 
another excellent chief, painstaking, hard - working, 
high-minded, remarkably winning in manner, cherish- 
ing a positive detestation of every kind of job, and 
never hesitating to resist pressure on that score 
from whatever quarter it might come. His early 
death was a distinct loss to the party to which he 

For Lord Elgin, who, like Lord Canning, left 
the Post Office to become Governor - General of 
India, my father entertained the highest opinion 
alike as regarded his administrative powers, his 
calm and dispassionate judgment, and his trans- 
parent straightforwardness of character. "He is 
another Lord Canning," the postal reformer used 

spared, might perhaps have been the moral reformer of India. . . . 
That such a man, after acquiring a thorough knowledge of myself, 
should have selected me for the difficult and responsible post of 
Secretary to the Post Office, and have continued throughout my 
attached friend, is to me a source of the highest gratification." 
( Life," ii. 353-355-) 


to say ; and that was paying his new chief the 
greatest compliment possible. 

So far, then, as my father's experience entitled 
him to judge, there are few beliefs more erroneous 
than that which pictures these political, and therefore 
temporary masters of the Post Office or, indeed, of 
other Governmental departments as mere " orna- 
mental figure-heads," drawing a handsome salary, 
and doing very little to earn it. The same remark 
applies to my father's last chief, who was certainly 
no drone, and who was ever bold in adopting any 
improvement which seemed to him likely to benefit 
the service and the public. 

Hitherto the reformer had been fortunate in the 
Postmasters-General he had served under ; and by 
this time the beginning of the 'sixties everything 
was working harmoniously, so that Mr (afterwards 
Sir John) Tilly, the then Senior Assistant Secretary, 
when contrasting the present with the past, was 
justified when he remarked that, " Now every one 
seems to do his duty as a matter of course." 

But with the advent to power in 1860 of the 
seventh chief under whom my father, while at the 
Post Office, served, there came a change ; and the 
era of peace was at an end. The new head may, 
like Lord Canning, have had knowledge of that 
hostility to which the earlier Postmaster-General, in 
conversation with Rowland Hill, alluded. But if 
so, the effect on the later chief was very different 
from that upon Lord Canning. At this long interval 
of time, there can be no necessity to disinter the 
forgotten details of a quarrel that lasted for four 


years, but which will soon be half a century old. 
Perhaps the situation may be best expressed in the 
brief, and very far from vindictive reference to it 
in my father's diary. "I had not/' he wrote, "the 
good fortune to obtain from him that confidence and 
support which I had enjoyed with his predecessors.' 
Too old, too utterly wearied out with long years of 
almost incessant toil and frequently recurring obstruc- 
tion, too hopelessly out of health 1 to cope with the 
new difficulties, the harassed postal reformer struggled 
on awhile, and in 1864 resigned. 

He was sixty-eight years of age, and from early 
youth upward, had worked far harder than do most 
people. " He had," said an old friend, "packed into 
one man's life the life's work of two men." 2 

1 He had been still further crippled in 1860 by a paralytic 
seizure which necessitated entire abstention from work for many 
months, and from which he rallied, but with impared health, 
although he lived some nineteen years longer. 

2 "Life," ii. 353-363. Yates, in his "Recollections," gives a 
vivid character sketch of this political head of the office. The 
portrait is not flattering. But then Yates, who, like other sub- 
ordinates at St Martin's-le-Grand, had grievances of his own against 
the man who was probably the most unpopular Postmaster-General 
of his century, does not mince his words. 



IN February 1864, Rowland Hill sent in his resigna- 
tion to the Lords of the Treasury. Thenceforward, 
he retired from public life, though he continued to take 
a keen interest in all political and social questions, and 
especially in all that concerned the Post Office. 1 In 
drawing his pen-portrait, it is better that the judg- 
ment of a few of those who knew him well should 
be quoted, rather than that of one so nearly related 
to him as his present biographer. 

In the concluding part to the " Life of Sir 
Rowland Hill and History of Penny Postage," partly 
edited, partly written by Dr G. Birkbeck Hill, the 
latter, while reviewing the situation, justly holds 
that " In the Post Office certainly" his uncle "should 
have had no master over him at any time." . . . 
" Under the able chiefs whom he served from 1854 
to 1860, he worked with full contentment." When 
" this happy period came to an end, with the appoint- 
ment of" the Postmaster - General under whom he 
found it impossible to work, " his force was once 

1 On leaving office he drew up a short paper entitled, " Results 
of Postal Reform," a copy of which appears in the Appendix. 


To face p. 236. 

From o Portrait in " THE GRAPHIC. 


more, and for the last time, squandered. How 
strangely and how sadly was this man thwarted in 
the high aim of his life ! He longed for power ; but 
it was for the power to carry through his great 
scheme. ' My plan ' was often on his lips, and 
ever in his thoughts. His strong mind was made 
up that it should succeed." . . . " There was in him 
a rare combination of enthusiasm and practical power. 
He clearly saw every difficulty that lay in his path, 
and yet he went on with unshaken firmness. In 
everything but in work he was the most temperate 
of men. His health was greatly shattered by his 
excessive toils and his long struggles. For the last 
few years of his life he never left his house, and 
never even left the floor on which his sleeping 
room was. But in the midst of this confinement, 
in all the weakness of old age and sickness, he 
wrote : ' I accept the evil with the good, and frankly 
regard the latter as by far the weightier of the 
two. Could I repeat my course, I should sacrifice 
as much as before, and regard myself as richly 
repaid by the result.' With these high qualities 
was united perfect integrity. He was the most 
upright and the most truthful of men. He was 
often careless of any gain to himself, but the good 
of the State never for one moment did he disregard. 
His rule was stern, yet never without consideration 
for the feelings of others. No one who was under 
him ever felt his self-respect wounded by his chief. 1 

1 He was, indeed, never likely to err as once did the unpopular 
Postmaster-General who summoned to his presence the head of one 
of the departments to give an explanation of some difficult matter 


He left behind him in all ranks of the service a 
strong sense of public duty which outlived even the 
evil days which came after him. One of the men 
who long served under him bore this high testimony 
to the character of his old chief: 'Sir Rowland Hill 
was very generous with his own money, and very 
close with public money. He would have been 
more popular had he been generous with the public 
money and close with his own.' " l 

When Mr Gladstone was Chancellor of the 
Exchequer, my father often worked with him, their 
relations being most harmonious. Shortly before the 
postal reformer's resignation, the great statesman 
wrote that "he stands pre-eminent and alone among 
all the members of the Civil Service as a benefactor 
to the nation." At another time Mr Gladstone 
assured his friend that " the support you have had 
from me has been the very best that I could give, 
but had it been much better and more effective, it 
would not have been equal to your deserts and 
claims." And at a later season, when Rowland Hill 
was suffering from an especially virulent outbreak 
of the misrepresentation and petty insults which fall 
to the lot of all fearlessly honest, job-detesting men, 
the sympathising Chancellor wrote : "If you are at 
present under odium for the gallant stand you make 
on behalf of the public interests, at a period, too, 

that was under consideration. The interview was bound to be 
lengthy, but the unfortunate man was not invited to take a chair, 
till Rowland Hill, who was also present, rose, and, by way of silent 
protest against an ill-bred action, remained standing. Then both 
men were asked to sit down. 
1 "Life,"ii. 411-414. 


when chivalry of that sort by no means 'pays,' I 
believe that I have, and I hope still to have, the 
honour of sharing it with you." 1 Writing soon after 
my father's death, the then leader of the Opposition 
used words which Rowland Hill's descendants have 
always prized. " In some respects his lot was one 
peculiarly happy even as among public benefactors, 
for his great plan ran like wildfire through the 
civilised world ; and never, perhaps, was a local 
invention (for such it was) and improvement applied 
in the lifetime of its author to the advantage of such 
vast multitudes of his fellow-creatures." Ten years 
later, the same kindly critic, in the course of a 
speech delivered at Saltney in October 1889, said: 
"In the days of my youth a labouring man, the 
father of a family, was practically prohibited from 
corresponding with the members of his household 
who might be away. By the skill and courage and 
genius of Sir Rowland Hill, correspondence is now 
within reach of all, and the circulation of intelligence 
is greatly facilitated." 1 

A very busy man himself, my father was naturally 
full of admiration for Gladstone's marvellous capacity 
for work and for attending to a number of different 
things at once. One day, when the Secretary to 

iLife,"ii. 363, 400. 

2 It is well to reproduce these remarks of one who could 
remember the old postal system, because among the younger 
generations who know nothing of it, a belief seems to be prevalent 
that the plan of penny postage was merely an elaboration of the 
little local posts. Gladstone was thirty when the great postal reform 
was established, and was therefore fully qualified to speak of it as 
he did. 




the Post Office went to Downing Street to transact 
some departmental business with the Chancellor of 
the Exchequer, he found the latter engaged with 
his private secretaries, every one of whom was hard 
at work, a sculptor being meanwhile employed upon 
a bust for which the great man was too much 
occupied to give regular sittings. Every now and 
then during my father's interview, Mrs Gladstone, 
almost, if not quite, as hard-working as her husband, 
came in and out, each time on some errand of 
importance, and all the while letters and messengers 
and other people were arriving or departing. Yet 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed able to 
keep that wonderful brain of his as clear as if his 
attention had been wholly concentrated on the 
business about which his postal visitor had come, 
and this was soon discussed and settled in Gladstone's 
own clear and concise manner, notwithstanding the 
should - have - been - bewildering surroundings, which 
would have driven my father all but distracted. A 
characteristic, everyday scene of that strenuous life. 
On Rowland Hill's retirement, he received many 
letters of sympathy and of grateful recognition of 
his services from old friends and former colleagues, 
most of them being men of distinguished career. 
They form a valuable collection of autographs, which 
would have been far larger had not many of his 
early acquaintances, those especially who worked 
heartily and well during the late 'thirties to help 
forward the reform, passed over already to the 
majority. One letter was from Lord Monteagle, who, 
as Mr Spring Rice, Chancellor of the Exchequer in 


the Melbourne Administration, had proposed Penny 
Postage in the Budget of 1839. 

Prolonged rest gave back to Rowland Hill some 
of his old strength, and allowed him to serve on 
the Royal Commission on Railways, and to show 
while so employed that his mind had lost none of 
its clearness. He was also able on several occasions 
to attend the meetings of the Political Economy 
Club and other congenial functions, and he followed 
with keen interest the doings of the Royal 
Astronomical Society, to which he had belonged for 
more than half a century. 1 He also spent much 
time in preparing the lengthy autobiography on 
whose pages I have largely drawn in writing this 
story of his reform. He survived his retirement 
from the Post Office fifteen years ; and time, with 
its happy tendency to obliterate memory of wrongs, 

1 His love for " the Queen of all the Sciences " was gratified one 
cloudless day in the late autumn of his life by following through his 
telescope the progress of a transit of Mercury, which he enjoyed 
with an enthusiasm that was positively boyish. An early lesson in 
astronomy had been given him one wintry night by his father, who, 
with the little lad, had been taking a long walk into the country. On 
their return, young Rowland, being tired, finished the journey seated 
on his father's back, his arms clasped round the paternal neck. 
Darkness came on, and in the clear sky the stars presently shone 
out brilliantly. The two wayfarers by and by passed beside a large 
pond, in which, the evening being windless, the stars were reflected. 
Seeing how admirable an astral map the placid waters made, the 
father stopped and pointed out the constellations therein reproduced, 
naming them to his little son. The boy eagerly learned the lesson, 
but his joy was somewhat tempered by the dread lest he should fall 
into what, to his childish fancy, looked like a fathomless black abyss. 
Happily, his father had a firm grasp of Rowland's clinging arms, and 
no accident befell him. 


enabled him to look back on the old days of storm 
and stress with chastened feelings. Over several of 
his old opponents the grave had closed, and for the 
rest, many years had passed since they and he had 
played at move and counter-move. Thus, when the 
only son of one of his bitterest adversaries died 
under especially sad circumstances, the news called 
forth the aged recluse's ever ready sympathy, and 
prompted him to send the bereaved parent a genuinely 
heartfelt message of condolence. Increasing age and 
infirmities did not induce melancholy or pessimistic 
leanings, and although he never ceased to feel regret 
that his plan had not been carried out in its entirety 
a regret with which every reformer, successful or 
otherwise, is likely to sympathise he was able in 
one of the concluding passages of his Autobiography 
to write thus cheerfully of his own position and 
that of his forerunners in the same field : " When I 
compare my experience with that of other reformers 
or inventors, I ought to regard myself as supremely 
fortunate. Amongst those who have laboured to 
effect great improvements, how many have felt their 
success limited to the fact that by their efforts seed 
was sown which in another age would germinate 
and bear fruit ! How many have by their innovations 
exposed themselves to obliquy, ridicule, perhaps even 
to the scorn and abhorrence of at least their own 
generation ; and, alas, how few have lived to see 
their predictions more than verified, their success 
amply acknowledged, and their deeds formally and 
gracefully rewarded ! " 

1 "Life,"ii. 401. 


Owing to the still quieter life which, during his 
very latest years, he was obliged to lead through 
broken health, advancing age, and the partial loneli- 
ness caused by the passing hence of his too eldest 
brothers, one of his children, and nearly all his most 
intimate friends, he was nearly forgotten by the 
public, or at any rate by that vastly preponderating 
younger portion of it, which rarely studies " the 
history of our own times," or is only dimly aware 
that Rowland Hill had " done something to the 
Post Office." Many people believed him to be dead, 
others that he was living in a retirement not altogether 
voluntary. Thus one day he was greatly amused 
while reading his morning paper, to learn that at a 
spiritualist meeting his wraith had been summoned 
from the vasty deep, and asked to give its opinion 
on the then management of the Post Office. The 
helm at that time was in the hands of one of the 
bitterest of his old opponents, and sundry things 
had lately taken place notably, if memory serves 
me aright, in the way of extravagant telegraphs 
purchase of which he strongly disapproved. But 
that fact by no means prevented the spirit from 
expressing entire satisfaction with everything and 
everybody at St Martin's-le-Grand, or from singling 
out for particular commendation the then novel 
invention of halfpenny postcards. These the living 
man cordially detested as being, to his thinking, a 
mischievous departure from his principle of uniformity 
of rate. 1 Later, he so far conformed to the growing 

1 A more recent instance of killing a man before he is dead, and 
raising his spirit to talk at a seance, was that of Mr Sherman, the 


partiality for postcards as to keep a packet or two 
on hand, but they diminished in number very slowly, 
and he was ever wont to find fault with the 
unfastidious taste of that large portion of mankind 
which writes descriptions of its maladies, details of 
its private affairs, and moral reflections on the foibles 
of its family or friends, so that all who run, or, at 
any rate, sort and deliver, may read. 

During the quarter-century which elapsed between 
Rowland Hill's appointment to the Treasury and his 
resignation of the chief secretaryship to the Post 
Office, many generous tributes were paid him by the 
public in acknowledgment of the good accomplished 
by the postal reform. 

The year after the establishment of penny postage, 
Wolverhampton, Liverpool, and Glasgow, each sent 

American statesman. His ghost expatiated eloquently on the beauties 
and delights of Heaven with which region, as he was still in the 
land of the living, he could hardly have made acquaintance and 
altogether uttered much unedifying nonsense. The following 
veracious anecdotes show what hazy views on history, postal or 
otherwise, some children, and even their elders, entertain. A school 
mistress who had recently passed with honours through one of our 
" Seminaries of Useless Knowledge," was asked by a small pupil if 
Rowland Hill had not invented the penny post. "No, my dear," 
answered the learned instructress. "The penny post has been 
established in this country for hundreds of years. All that Rowland 
Hill did was to put the Queen's head on to a penny stamp." The 
other story is of a recent viva voce examination in English history at 
one of our large public schools. "Who was Rowland Hill ?" was the 
question. " Rowland Hill," came without hesitation the reply, though 
not from the grand-nephew who was present and is responsible for 
the tale, " was a man who was burned for heresy." Could the boy 
have been thinking of Rowland Taylor, a Marian martyr ? The fact 
that my father was not exactly orthodox, lends piquancy to the story. 


him a handsome piece of plate, the Liverpool gift, 
a silver salver, being accompanied by a letter from 
Mr Egerton Smith, the editor of the local Mercury. 
Mr Smith told my father that the salver had been 
purchased with the pence contributed by several 
thousands of his fellow-townsmen, and that Mr 
Mayer, in whose works it had been made, and by 
whom it was delivered into the postal reformer's 
hands, had waived all considerations of profit, and 
worked out of pure gratitude. The other pieces of 
plate were also accompanied by addresses couched 
in the kindliest of terms. 

From Cupar Fife came a beautiful edition of the 
complete works of Sir Walter Scott ninety-eight 
volumes in all. In each is a fly-leaf stating for whom 
and for what services this unique edition was pre- 
pared, the inscription being as complimentary as were 
the inscriptions accompanying the other testimonials. 
My father was a life-long admirer of Scott ; and 
when the Cupar Fife Testimonial Committee wrote 
to ask what form their tribute should take, he was 
unfeignedly glad to please his Scots admirers by 
choosing the works of their most honoured author, 
and, at the same time, by possessing them, to realise 
a very many years long dream of his own. As 
young men, he and his brothers had always welcomed 
each successive work as it fell from pen and press, 
duly receiving their copy direct from the publishers, 
and straightway devouring it. Younger generations 
have decided that Scott is ''dry." Had they lived 
in those dark, early decades of the nineteenth century, 
when literature was perhaps at its poorest level, they 


also might have greeted with enthusiasm the creations 
of "the Great Unknown," and wondered who could 
be their author. 1 My father set so high a value on 
these beautiful presentation volumes that, from the 
first, he laid down a stringent rule that not one of 
them should leave the house, no matter who might 
wish to borrow it. 

The National Testimonial to which allusion has 
already been made was raised about three years 
after Rowland Hill's dismissal from the Treasury, 
and before his restoration to office by Lord John 
Russell's Administration, by which time the country 
had given the new postal system a trial, and found 
out its merits. In 1845 Sir George Larpent, in the 
name of the Mercantile Committee, sent my father 
a copy of its Resolutions, together with a cheque for 
; 1 0,000, the final presentation being deferred till the 

1 While we were children our father used often to read aloud to 
us as a schoolmaster and elocutionist he was a proficient in that 
comparatively rare art and in course of time we thus became 
acquainted with nearly all these books. He probably missed the 
occasional lengthy introductory chapters and other parts which well 
bear pruning, for memory holds no record of their undeniable 
tediousness. We certainly did not find Scott " dry." Why should 
we? Through him we came to know chivalric Saladin, David of 
Huntingdon, and tawny-haired Richard of the Lion's heart ; to love 
the noble Rebecca, and to assist at the siege of Torquilstone Castle ; 
to look on at the great fight between the Clan Chattan and the 
Clan Quhele, and to mourn over Rothesay's slow, cruel doing to 
death ; to know kings and queens, and companies of gallant knights 
and lovely ladies, and free-booters like Rob Roy and Robin Hood, 
and wits and eccentric characters who were amusing without being 
vulgar or impossible. Also was it not Sir Walter who "discovered'' 
Scotland for our delight, and through that discovery contributed 
largely to his native land's prosperity ? 


accounts should be made up. This was done in June 
1846, on the occasion of a public dinner at which were 
assembled Rowland Hill's aged father, his only son 
then a lad of fourteen and his brothers, in addition 
to many of those good friends who had done yeoman 
service for the reform. The idea of the testimonial 
originated with Mr John Estlin, 1 an eminent surgeon 
of Bristol, and was speedily taken up in London by 
The Inquirer, the article advocating it being written 
by the editor, the Rev. Wm. Hinks. The appeal 
once started was responded to by the country cordially 
and generously. 

Many pleasant little anecdotes show how heartily 
the poorer classes appreciated both reform and 
reformer. Being, in 1853, on a tour in Scotland, my 
father one day employed a poor journeyman tailor of 
Dunoon to mend a torn coat. Somehow the old man 
found out who was its wearer, and no amount of 
persuasion would induce him to accept payment for 
the rent he so skilfully made good. A similar case 
occurred somewhat earlier, when we were staying at 
Beaumaris ; while a "humble admirer" who gave no 
name wrote, a few years later than the presentation 
of the National Testimonial, to say that at the time 
he had been too poor to subscribe, but now sent a 
donation, which he begged my father to accept. His 
identity was never revealed. Another man wrote a 
letter of thanks from a distant colony, and not 
knowing the right address, inscribed the cover 
"To him who gave us all the Penny Post." Even 

1 The Mercantile Committee suggested a National Testimonial 
in March 1844, but Mr Estlin's proposal was yet earlier. 


M. Grasset, when in a similar difficulty, directed his 
envelope from Paris to " Rowland Hill where he 
is." That these apologies for addresses can be re- 
produced is proof that the missives reached their 
destination. 1 

It would be easy to add to these stories ; their 
name is legion. 

Tributes like these touched my father even more 

1 A third letter to the postal reformer, also delivered, came 
directed to the General Post Office to " Mr Owl O Neill." Owing 
to the present spread of education, the once numerous (and 
genuine) specimens of eccentric spelling are yearly growing fewer, 
so that the calling of " blind man " as the official decipherer of 
illegible and ill-spelled addresses is not very appropriately termed 
is likely to become obsolete. It would surely have given any 
ordinary mortal a headache to turn " Uncon " into Hong- Kong, 
" Ilawait " into Isle of Wight, " I Vicum " into High Wycombe, 
"Searhoo Skur" into Soho Square, or "Vallop a Razzor" into 
Valparaiso. Education will also deprive us of insufficiently 
addressed letters. " Miss Queene Victoria of England " did 
perhaps reach her then youthful Majesty from some Colonial or 
American would-be correspondent ; but what could have been done 
with the letter intended for " My Uncle Jon in London," or that 
to "Mr Michl Darcy in the town of England"? The following 
pair of addresses are unmistakably Hibernian. " Dennis Belcher, 
Mill Street, Co. Cork. As you turn the corner to Tom Mantel's 
field, where Jack Gallavan's horse was drowned in the bog-hole," 
and " Mr John Sullivan, North Street, Boston. He's a man with 
a crutch. Bedad, I think that'll find him." That the French 
Post Office also required the services of " blind man " these strange 
addresses, taken from Larouse's " Dictionnaire du XIX. e Siecle," 
vol. xii. p. 1,497, demonstrate. The first, "A monsieur mon fils a 
Paris," reached its destination because it was called for at the chief 
office, where it had been detained, by a young man whose explanation 
satisfied the enquiring official. Whether the letter addressed to 
Lyon, and arriving at a time of thaw, " A M. M., demeurant dans 
la maison aupres de laquelle il y a un tas de neige " was delivered is 
not so certain. 


deeply than the bestowal of public honours, although 
he also prized these as showing that his work was 
appreciated in all grades of life. Moreover, in those 
now far-off days, "honours" were bestowed more 
sparingly and with greater discrimination than later 
came to be the case ; and merit was considered of 
more account than money-bags. Thus in 1860 
Rowland Hill was made a K.C.B., the suggestion of 
that step being understood to lie with Lords Palmerston 
and Elgin (the then Postmaster-General), for the 
recipient had not been previously sounded, and the 
gift came as a surprise. 

After my father's retirement, the bestowal of 
honours recommenced, though he did not assume the 
title of " Lord Queen's head," as Mr Punch suggested 
he should do were a peerage offered to him which 
was not at all likely to be done. At Oxford he 
received the honorary degree of D.C.L., 1 and a little 
later was presented by the then Prince of Wales with 
the first Albert Gold Medal issued by the Society of 
Arts. The following year, when Rowland Hill was 
dining at Marlborough House, the Prince reminded 
him of the presentation. Upon which the guest told 
his host a little story which was news to H.R.H., and 
greatly amused him. The successive blows required 
for obtaining high relief on the medal had shattered 
the die before the work was completed. There was 
not time to make another die, as it was found impos- 
sible to postpone the ceremony. At the moment of 
presentation, however, the recipient only, and not the 

i He had long before added to his name the justly-prized initials 
of F.R.S. and F.R.A.S. 


donor, was aware that it was an empty box which, 
with much interchange of compliments, passed from 
the royal hands into those of the commoner. 

From Longton, in the Staffordshire Potteries, came 
a pair of very handsome vases. When the workmen 
engaged in making them learned for whom they 
were intended, they bargained that, by way of con- 
tribution to the present, they should give their labour 

An address to Rowland Hill was voted at a 
town's meeting at Liverpool, and this was followed 
by the gift of some valuable pictures. Their selec- 
tion being left to my father himself, he chose three, 
one work each, by friends of long standing his ex- 
pupil Creswick, and Messrs Cooke and Clarkson Stan- 
field, all famous Royal Academicians. Three statues 
of the postal reformer have been erected, the first 
at Birmingham, where, soon after his resignation, a 
town's meeting was held to consider how to do honour 
to the man whose home had once been there, the 
originator of the movement being another ex-pupil, 
Mr James Lloyd of the well-known banking family. 
From Kidderminster his fellow-townsmen sent my 
father word that they were about to pay him the 
same compliment they had already paid to another 
Kidderminster man, the famous preacher, Richard 
Baxter. But this newer statue, like the one by 
Onslow Ford in London, 1 was not put up till after the 
reformer's death. Of the three, the Kidderminster 

1 This last statue had not long been unveiled when the street 
boys so reported one of our newspapers began to adorn the 
pedestal with postage stamps. 

From a Pliotorjraph by the late, T. Ball. 

By Thomas Brock, R.A. 

To face p. 301. 


statue, by Thomas Brock, R.A., is by far the best, the 
portrait being good and the pose characteristic. 
Mr Brock has also done justice to his subject's 
strongest point, the broad, massive head suggestive 
of the large, well-balanced brain within. That the 
others were not successful as likenesses is not 
surprising. Even when living he was difficult to 
portray, a little bust by Brodie, R.S.A., when Rowland 
Hill was about fifty, being perhaps next best to 
Brock's. The small bust in Westminster Abbey set 
up in the side chapel where my father lies is absolutely 
unrecognisable. Another posthumous portrait was 
the engraving published by Vinter (Lithographer to 
the Queen). It was taken from a photograph then 
quite a quarter-century old. Photography in the early 
'fifties was comparatively a young art. Portraits were 
often woeful caricatures; and the photograph in our 
possession was rather faded, so that the lithographer 
had no easy task before him. Still, the likeness was 
a fair one, though the best of all and they were 
admirable were an engraving published by Messrs 
Kelly of the " Post Office Directory," and one which 
appeared in the Graphic. 

In June 1879, less than three months before his 
death, the Freedom of the City of London was 
bestowed upon the veteran reformer. By this time 
he had grown much too infirm to go to the Guild- 
hall to receive the honour in accordance with long- 
established custom. The Court of Common Council 
therefore considerately waived precedent, and sent to 
Hampstead a deputation of five gentlemen, 1 headed by 
1 These were Mr Washington Lyon, mover of the resolution ; 


the City Chamberlain, who made an eloquent address, 
briefly describing the benefits achieved by the postal 
reform, while offering its dying author " the right 
hand of fellowship in the name of the Corporation." 
My father was just able to sign the Register, but the 
autograph is evidence of the near approach to dissolu- 
tion of the hand that traced it. 

On the 27th of August in the same year he passed 
away in the presence of his devoted wife, who, barely 
a year his junior, had borne up bravely and hardly 
left his bedside, and of one other person. Almost his 
last act of consciousness was, while holding her hand 
in his, to feel for the wedding ring he had placed upon 
it nearly fifty-two years before. 

My father's noblest monument is his reform which 
outlives him, and which no reactionary Administra- 
tion should be permitted to sweep away. The next 
noblest is the " Rowland Hill Benevolent Fund," 
whose chief promoters were Sir James Whitehead and 
Mr R. K. Causton, and was the fruit of a subscription 
raised soon after the postal reformer's death, doubled, 
eleven years later, by the proceeds of the two Penny 
Postage Jubilee celebrations, the one at the Guildhall 
and the other at the South Kensington Museum, in 
1890. Had it been possible to consult the dead man's 
wishes as to the use to be made of this fund, he 
would certainly have given his voice for the purpose 
to which it is dedicated the relief of those among 
the Post Office employees who, through ill-health, 

Sir John Bennett, the seconder ; Mr Peter M'Kinley, the Chairman 
of General Purposes Committee ; Mr (afterwards Sir Benjamin) 
Scott, F.R.A.S., the City Chamberlain; and Mr (afterwards Sir 
John) Monckton, F.S.A., the Town Clerk. 


old age, or other causes, have broken down, and are 
wholly or nearly destitute. For, having himself 
graduated in the stern school of poverty, he too 
had known its pinch, and could feel for the poor 
as the poor are ever readiest to feel. 

My father's fittest epitaph is contained in the 
following poem which appeared in Punch soon after 
his death. His family have always, and rightly, 
considered that no more eloquent or appreciative 
obituary notice could have been penned. 

Jn /Ifcemoriam 



Born at Kidderminster, 3rd December 1795. Died at Hampstead, 27th 
August 1879. Buried in Westminster Abbey, by the side of James 
Watt, Thursday, 4th September. 

No question this of worthy's right to lie 

With England's worthiest, by the side of him 

Whose brooding brain brought under mastery 
The wasted strength of the Steam giant grim. 

Like labours his who tamed by sea and land 

Power, Space, and Time, to needs of human kind, 

That bodies might be stronger, nearer hand, 

And his who multiplied mind's links with mind. 

Breaking the barriers th^t, of different height 
For rich and poor, were barriers still for all ; 

Till " out of mind " was one with " out of sight," 
And parted souls oft parted past recall. 


Freeing from tax unwise the interchange 

Of distant mind with mind and mart with mart ; 

Releasing thought from bars that clipped its range ; 
Lightening a load felt most i' the weakest part. 

What if the wings he made so strong and wide 
Bear burdens with their blessings ? Own that all 

For which his bold thought we oft hear decried, 
Of laden bag, too frequent postman's call, 

Is nothing to the threads of love and light 

Shot, thanks to him, through life's web dark and wide, 
N Nor only where he first unsealed men's sight, 
But far as pulse of time and flow of tide ! 

Was it a little thing to think this out ? 

Yet none till he had hit upon the thought ; 
And, the thought brought to birth, came sneer and flout 

Of all his insight saw, his wisdom taught. 

All office doors were closed against him hard ; 

All office heads were closed against him too. 
He had but worked, like others, for reward. 

"The thing was all a dream." "It would not do." 

But this was not a vaguely dreaming man, 
A windbag of the known Utopian kind ; 

He had thought out, wrought out, in full, his plan ; 
'Twas the far-seeing fighting with the blind. 

And the far-seeing won his way at last, 

Though pig-headed Obstruction's force died hard ; 

Denied his due, official bitters cast, 

Into the cup wrung slowly from their guard. 

But not until the country, wiser far 

Than those who ruled it, with an angry cry, 

Seeing its soldiers 'gainst it waging war, 
At last said resolutely, " Stand you by ! 


" And let him in to do what he has said, 

And you do not, and will not let him do." 
And so at last the fight he fought was sped, 

Thought at less cost freer and further flew. 

And all the world was kindlier, closer knit, 
And all man's written word can bring to man 

Had easier ways of transit made for it, 
And none sat silent under poortith's ban 

When severed from his own, as in old days. 

And this we owe to one sagacious brain, 
By one kind heart well guided, that in ways 

Of life laborious sturdy strength had ta'en. 

And his reward came, late, but sweeter so, 

In the wide sway that his wise thought had won : 

He was as one whose seed to tree should grow, 
Who hears him blest that sowed it 'gainst the sun. 

So love and honour made his grey hairs bright, 
And while most things he hoped to fulness came, 

And many ills he warred with were set right, 

Good work and good life joined to crown his name. 

And now that he is dead we see how great 

The good work done, the good life lived how brave, 

And through all crosses hold him blest of fate, 
Placing this wreath upon his honoured grave ! 

Punch, 2oth September 1879 



BEFORE stating the results of Postal Reform it may be 
convenient that I should briefly enumerate the more 
important organic improvements effected. They are a 
follows : 

1. A very large reduction in the Rates of Postage on a] 
correspondence, whether Inland, Foreign, or Colonial. A 
instances in point, it may be stated that letters are no\* 
conveyed from any part of the United Kingdom to any othe 
part even from the Channel Islands to the Shetland Isle 
at one-fourth of the charge previously levied on letter 
passing between post towns only a few miles apart j 1 am 
that the rate formerly charged for this slight distance viz 
4d. now suffices to carry a letter from any part of th 
United Kingdom to any part of France, Algeria included. 

2. The adoption of charge by weight, which, by abolish 
ing the charge for mere enclosures, in effect largely extende 
the reduction of rates. 

3. Arrangements which have led to the almost universa 
resort to prepayment of correspondence, and that by mean 
of stamps. 

4. The simplification of the mechanism and accounts o 
the department generally, by the above and other means. 

1 When my plan was published, the lowest General Post rate wa 
4d. ; but while the plan was under the consideration of Government, 
the rate between post towns not more than 8 miles asunder was reduced 
from 4d. to 2d. 



5. The establishment of the Book Post (including in its 
operation all printed and much M.S. matter), at very low 
rates ; and its modified extension to our Colonies, and to 
many foreign countries. 

6. Increased security in the transmission of valuable 
letters afforded, and temptation to the letter-carriers and 
others greatly diminished, by reducing the Registration Fee 
from is. to 4d., by making registration of letters containing 
coin compulsory, and by other means. 

7. A reduction to about one-third in the cost including 
postage of Money Orders, combined with a great extension 
and improvement of the system. 

8. More frequent and more rapid communication between 
the Metropolis and the larger provincial towns ; as also 
between one provincial town and another. 

9. A vast extension of the Rural Distribution many 
thousands of places, and probably some millions of inhabitants 
having for the first time been included within the Postal 

10. A great extension of free deliveries. Before the 
adoption of Penny Postage, many considerable towns, and 
portions of nearly all the larger towns, had either no delivery 
at all, or deliveries on condition of an extra charge. 

11. Greatly increased facilities afforded for the trans- 
mission of Foreign and Colonial Correspondence ; by im- 
proved treaties with foreign countries, by a better arrange- 
ment of the Packet service, by sorting on board and other 

12. A more prompt dispatch of letters when posted, and 
a more prompt delivery on arrival. 

13. The division of London and its suburbs into Ten 
Postal Districts, by which, and other measures, communica- 
tion within the 12-miles circle has been greatly facilitated, 
and the most important delivery of the day has, generally 
speaking, been accelerated as much as two hours. 

14. Concurrently with these improvements, the condition 
of the employees has been materially improved ; their 
labours, especially on the Sunday, having been very generally 


reduced, their salaries increased, their chances of promotion 
augmented, and other important advantages afforded them. 


My pamphlet on " Post Office Reform " was written in 
the year 1836. During the preceding twenty years viz., 
from 1815 to 1835 inclusive there was no increase what- 
ever in the Post Office revenue, whether gross or net, and 
therefore, in all probability, none in the number of letters; 
and though there was a slight increase in the revenue, 
and doubtless in the number of letters, between 1835 and 
the establishment of Penny Postage early in 1840 an 
increase chiefly due, in my opinion, to the adoption of 
part of my plan, viz., the establishment of Day Mails to 
and from London yet, during the whole period of twenty- 
four years immediately preceding the adoption of Penny 
Postage, the revenue, whether gross or net, and the number 
of letters, were, in effect, stationary. 

Contrast with this the rate of increase under the new 
system which has been in operation during a period of 
about equal length. In the first year of Penny Postage 
the letters more than doubled, and though since then the 
increase has, of course, been less rapid, yet it has been so 
steady that, notwithstanding the vicissitudes of trade, every 
year, without exception, has shown a considerable advance 
on the preceding year, and the first year's number is now 
nearly quadrupled. As regards revenue, there was, of course, 
at first a large falling off about a million in gross and 
still more in net revenue. Since then, however, the revenue, 
whether gross or net, has rapidly advanced, till now it even 
exceeds its former amount, the rate of increase, both of 
letters and revenue, still remaining undiminished. 

In short, a comparison of the year 1863 with 1838 (the 
last complete year under the old system) shows that the 
number of chargeable letters has risen from 76,000,000 to 
642,000,000 ; and that the revenue, at first so much impaired, 


has not only recovered its original amount, but risen, the 
gross from 2,346,000 to about 3,870,000, and the net 
from ; i, 660,000 to about ; i ,790,000.! 

The expectations I held out before the change were, 
that eventually, under the operation of my plans, the number 
of letters would increase fivefold, the gross revenue would 
be the same as before, while the net revenue would sustain 
a loss of about ^300,000. The preceding statement shows 
that the letters have increased, not fivefold, but nearly 
eight-and-a-half-fold ; that the gross revenue, instead of 
remaining the same, has increased by about ; 1,500,000 ; 
while the net revenue, instead of falling 300,000, has risen 
more than ; 100,000. 

While the revenue of the Post Office has thus more 
than recovered its former amount, the indirect benefit to 
the general revenue of the country arising from the greatly 
increased facilities afforded to commercial transactions, 
though incapable of exact estimate, must be very large. 
Perhaps it is not too much to assume that, all things 
considered, the vast benefit of cheap, rapid, and extended 
postal communication has been obtained, even as regards 
the past, without fiscal loss. For the future there must be 
a large and ever-increasing gain. 

The indirect benefit referred to is partly manifested 
in the development of the Money Order System, under 
which, since the year 1839, the annual amount transmitted 
has risen from 313,000 to 16,494,000, that is, fifty -two-fold. 

An important collateral benefit of the new system is 
to be found in the cessation of that contraband convey- 
ance which once prevailed so far that habitual breach of 
the postal law had become a thing of course. 

It may be added that the organisation thus so greatly 

1 In this comparison of revenue, the mode of calculation in use 
before the adoption of Penny Postage has, of course, been retained that 
is to say, the cost of the Packets on the one hand, and the produce of the 
impressed Newspaper Stamps on the other, have been excluded. The 
amounts for 1863 are, to some extent, estimated, the accounts not having 
as yet been fully made up. 


improved and extended for postal purposes stands available 
for other objects ; and, passing over minor matters, has 
already been applied with great advantage to the new 
system of Savings Banks. 

Lastly, the improvements briefly referred to above, with 
all their commercial, educational, and social benefits, have 
now been adopted, in greater or less degree and that 
through the mere force of example by the whole civilised 

I cannot conclude this summary without gratefully ac- 
knowledging the cordial co - operation and zealous aid 
afforded me in the discharge of my arduous duties. I must 
especially refer to many among the superior officers of the 
department men whose ability would do credit to any 
service, and whose zeal could not be greater if their 
object were private instead of public benefit. 


2yd February 1864. 


ABBOTT, Sec. P.O., Scotland, 259 

Aberdeen, 54, 206 

Abolition of postal tolls over Menai 
and Conway bridges and Scottish 
border, 161 ; of money prepayment, 

Account-keeping, official (blunders in), 
I74> 175 5 postal, 62-64, 105, 106, 
175 ; practically revolutionised, 219 

Accountant-General, the, 175 

Adelaide, South Australia, 19 

Adhesive stamps. (See Postage stamps) 

Admiralty, the, 174, 236 

Advertisement duty, the, 97 

Adviser to the P.O., 214 

Afghanistan, war in, 176 

Aggrieved lady, an, 274 

Air-gun, the, 200 

Airy, Sir G. B., Astronomer Royal, 34 

Albert Gold Medal, story of an, 299 

Algeria, 14 

Algerine Ambassador, the, 14 

Allen, Ralph, postal reformer, 55,71, 

All the Year Round, 267 

Amalgamation of two corps of letter- 
carriers, the, 41, 155 

"Ambassador's bag," the, 43 

Ambleside, 132, 204 

American Chamber of Commerce, the, 

colonies, revolt of the, 17; and 

the paper-duty stamp, 188 

rancher, an, 260 

Amiens, the Peace of, 35, 88 
Angas, Mr G. F., 19 
"Anne Pryse, her boke," 272 
Annual motion, Mr Villiers', 24 

Reports of the Postmaster - 

General, 171, 176, 250 

Annular eclipse of the sun, 266 
Anonymous letters, 225, 264, 265 
"Anti-Corn-Law Catechism, "the, 143 ; 
League, the, 142, 143, 178 

Appointments, the power to make, 
transferred to Post Office, 246 ; 
excellent appointments made by 
Colonel Maberly, 248 ; best rules for, 
209, 261 

Archer's perforation patent, 200 

Argyll, Duke of. (See Postmasters- 

Armstrong, Sir Wm. (Lord Armstrong), 

Army and Navy, the, 176 ; letters and 
money orders (Crimean War), 140 

Arnott, Dr Niel, 28 

Artist, a puzzled, 203 

Ashburton, Lord, 39, 124 

Ashley, Lord. (See Shaftesbury) 

Ashurst, Mr Wm., 114 

" As if they were all M.P.s," 131 

Association for abolition of taxes on 
knowledge, 97 

Astronomical Society, the Royal, 291 

Astronomy, 6, 81 ; an early lesson in, 

Athenaeum Club, 31, 237 ; newspaper, 

Atterbury, trial of Bishop, 114 

Auction sale of lost articles, 271 

Augean stable, an, 180 

Augier, M., 79 

Australia, 19, 65 ; mails to, 237, 238 

Austria, 37 ; adopts postal reform, 251 

Authors who draw on their imagination 
for their facts, 186-189 

"Autobiographic Sketches," De 
Quincey, 16 

Average postage on letters, the, 41, 165 

BACK-STAIRS influence, 178-181 
Bacon, Mr (Messrs Perkins, Bacon 

& Co.), 207 

Bad bargains, the State's, 262 
Baden adopts postal reform, 251 
Baines family, the (Leeds Mercury}^ 117, 




Baker, Sir B., 261 

Balcombe, Miss B., 27, 28 

Bancroft, United States' historian, 134 

Bandiera, the brothers, 1 14 

Bankers' franks, 45 

" Barbary Corsairs, The," 15 

Baring brothers, the, 114 

, Sir F., 138 ; a zealous chief, 

145 ; first interview with, 149 ; dis- 
cusses terms of engagement with R. 
H., 149-153 ; his friendly attitude, 
154 ; distrusts principle of prepay- 
ment, 1 60 ; suggests compulsory use 
of stamps, 161 ; satisfied with result 
of tentative rate, 162 ; uneasy at 
increase of expenditure, 171 ; his 
indignation at R. H.'s dismissal, 
178 ; dreads possible raising of postal 
rates, 181 ; on suggested revival of 
old system, 212 

" Barnaby Rudge," 224 

Bates, Mr (Messrs Baring Brothers), 114 

Bath, 71, 77,82 

Bavaria adopts postal reform, 25 1 

Baxter, Richard, 300 

Beaumaris, 297 

" Bedchamber Difficulty," the, 144 

Belated letter, a, 148 

Belgians, King of the, 278 

Belgium, 109 ; adopts postal reform, 
251, 252 

Bennett, Sir J., 302 

Bentham, Jeremy, 13, 34 

Bentinck, Mr, M.P., 211 

Bernadotte, 14 

Bertram, Mr, " Some Memories of 
Books," 59 

Bianconi, "the Palmer of Ireland," 88 

Bible, the, 72 

Birmingham, 7, 8, 10, II, 66,67, 84, 
88, 113, 133, 162, 274 

Blackstone on our criminal code, 9 

Black wall, 75 

Blanc, Louis, 38 

"Blind man," the, in England and 
France, 298 

Blue Books, 100, 102 ; a model one, 129 

Blue Coat School, the, I 

Board of Stamps and Taxes (Inland 
Revenue), the, 119, 188, 197 

Trade, 268 

Works, 249, 250, 256 

Bodichon, Mme. B. L. S., 36, 118 

Bokenham, Mr, Head of the Circula- 
tion Department. 164, 275, 276 

Bolton-King, Mr, 114 

" Bomba," King, 37 

Bonner, post official, 84 

, A. and H. B., 195 

Book post, the, 272, 273 

Boswell's " Life of Johnson," 112 

Bourbons, the, 114 

Bowring, Sir J., 35 

Boythorn, Mr, 277 

Brandram, Mr, 18 

Brawne, Fanny, 29 

Brazil adopts postal reform, 251 

Breakdown prophesied, a, 122 

Bremen adopts postal reform, 25 1 

Brewin, Mr, 41, 42, 67 

Bridport, 130, 213 

Brierley Hill, 50 

Bright, John, 143 

Brighton, 30, 182-184, 249, 250 

Brindley, Jas., 260, 261 

Bristol, 84, 124, 297 

British Linen Co., the, 66 

"British Postal Guide," the, 251 

Brobdingnagian and Lilliputian letters, 

Brock, Thos., R.A., 301 

Brodie, Wm., R.S.A., 301 

Brompton, 57 

Brookes, Mr, 167 

Brougham, Lord, 36, 80, 139, 140 

Brown, Sir Wm., 39, 124 

Browning, Eliz. Barrett, 163 

Bruce Castle, 14, 16, 18, 95 

Brunswick adopts postal reform, 251 

Budget of 1839, penny postage pro- 
posed in the, 135 

Building and correspondence, relative 
sizes of, 121 

Bull-baiting, etc., 25 

Burgoyne, Sir J., 44 

Burke, Edmund, 35 

Burritt, Elihu, 229 

Busy day, a, 289, 290 

Butler, S., " Hudibras," 5 

CABFUL of Blue Books, a, 100 

Calais, 56 

Calverley, 22 

Cambridge, 19 

, Duchess of, 164 ; Princess Mary 

of, 164 

Campbell-Bannerman, Lady, 141 
Campbell, Lord, 85, 241 
Canada, postal rates to, 56 ; extension 

of Money Order System to, 220 
Canals and Railway charges, 230, 231 
" Candling" letters, 52, 54, 64, 105 
Canning, Lord. (See Postmasters - 



Cape of Good Hope, Steamship Co., 
236, 237, 238 

Carlyle, Thos., 114 

Carrick-on-Shannon, 77 

Carriers and others as smugglers, 66- 

" Carroll, Lewis," 179 

Carter, Rev. J., 25 

"Castle Rackrent," etc., 34 

Catholic Emancipation, 26, 81, 88 

gentleman despoiled, a, 88 

Causton, Mr R. K., M.P., 302 

Caxton Exhibition, the, 22 

Celestial and other postal arrangements, 

Census return (1841), 166 

"Century of progress," the, 91 

Chadwick, Sir E., 28 

Chalmers, Mr, M.P., 120 

, Jas., 189-193 

, P., 193, 194 

"Chambers' Encyclopaedia, " 192, 193 
, Wm. and Robert, 31, 140 

Chancellors of the Exchequer 

Spring Rice (Lord Monteagle), III, 

135, 138, 145 
Sir F. Baring, 138, 145, 149-153, 

154, 160, 161, 162, 171 
H. Goulburn, 173, 177 
Sir Geo. Cornwall Lewis, 219 
B. Disraeli, 247. (See also Disraeli) 
Gladstone, 268, 288, 289. (See also 

Chancery Lane, 21, 22 

"Change of style, the," 81 

Channel Isles, 77, 156 

Charing Cross and Brompton, postage 
between, 57 

Charles II., 173 

"Chartist Day," 223, 224 

Chaucer, 8, 260 

Chester, 74 

Chevalier, M., 159, 160 

Cheverton, Mr, 198 

Chile adopts postal reform, 251 

China, war with, 176 

Cholera at Haddington, 4 

Christmas-boxes, 264 

"Chronicles," Second Book of, 72 

Civil Service Commissioners and ex- 
aminations, 257-261 

war in the United States predicted, 


Claimants to authorship of postal reform 
or postage stamps, 49, 53, 189-195 

Clanricarde, Lord. (See Postmasters- 

Clark, Professor, 206 

, Sir Jas., 34 

, Thos., 7 

Claude, 17, 33, 34 

Clerks, duties of, under old system, 64 

Coaches. (See Mail coaches) 

Cobden, R., 65, 109, 141 ; his letters 
to R. H., 143, 178 

Club, 19 

Coin-bearing letters, 270 

Colby, General, 123 

Colchester, Lord. (See Postmasters- 

Cole, Mr (Sir Henry), 114, 115, 190, 
191, 198 

Coleridge, S. T., 29, 60 

Collection of postage in coin, 62, 63, 

I0 5 

Colonial penny postage, 230 
Colonies, the, 17, 188, 230 
Colonisation Commissioners for South 

Australia, 19 
Comet of 1858, the, 266 
Commission on Packet Service, the, 235 
on Railways, 291 

to revise salaries of postal 

employees, 245, 246 

Commissioners, Civil Service. (See 
Civil Service, etc.) 

of Inland Revenue, Reports of 

the, 63, 95 

of Post Office Inquiry, the, 98, 

99, 142, 196, 197 

Committee of Inquiry (1788), 80 
on Postage, the Select (1838), 42, 

58, 65, 67-69, 103, 119, 121-130, 

142, 169, 270; on Postage (1843), 

142, 169 
on canal and railway charges, 230, 


Compulsory prepayment of postage, 269 
Congestion at St Martin's-le-Grand, 256 
Conservatives and Peelites, 247 
Constantinople, 57 
Conveyance of inland mails. (See 


Conway bridge, 54, 161 
Cooke, Wm., R.A., 34, 300 
Corn Laws, the, 81, m, 141, 143, 

Corporal punishment abolished at 

Hazelwood, 12 

Correction "removed by order," a, 175 
Correspondence and building : should 

they agree in size? 121 
Cost of conveyance of letters between 

London and Edinburgh, 103 



Coulson, Mr, 34 

Cowper, Mr E., 21 

Cox, David, 18 

Craik, Mrs (Mulock, Miss), 31 

Creswick, Thos., R.A., 13, 34, 300 

Crimean War, 140, 182 

"Criminal Capitalists," Edwin Hill, 


Croker, J. W., 112 
Cross-posts, the, 55 
"Crowd" of petitions, a, 113 
Crowe family, the, 30 
Crump, Mrs Lucy, 112 
Crusaders and others, 40, 41 
Cubitt, Sir Wm., 235, 240 
Cupar-Fife, testimonial from, 295 

DAILY NEWS, the, 30 

Daily Packet List, the, 25 1 

Darian Scheme, the, 238 

Davenport, Mrs, 4 

Davy's, Sir H., mother and Penzance, 


"Dead" letters, 220; auction sale at 

office of, 271 
Deal, 44 

Debating society, a youthful, 9 
"De Comburendo Heretico" Act, 81 
Decrease of price : increase of con- 
sumption, 101, 104 

of prosecutions for theft, 83, 219 

Definition of local penny post area, 75, 


Degree of D.C.L. (Oxon.), 299 
De La Rue & Co., Messrs, 95, 201 
Deliveries, acceleration and greater 

frequency of, 256 
" Denis Duval," Thackeray, 83 
Denman, Lord, 36 
Denmark adopts postal reform, 251 
Deputation to Lord Melbourne, 133, 

Deputy Comptroller of the Penny Post, 


Designs for postage stamps, 197 
Dttemi^ a, 35 

Dickens, Chas., 31, 163, 164, 277 
"Dickinson" paper, the, 197 
"Dictionary of National Biography," 

the, 192, 193 
" Dictionnaire du XIXe Siecle," 79, 

1 86, 298 
Dilke, C. W., antiquary, journalist, 

etc., 29 
Dillon, Mr (Messrs Morrison and 

Dillon), 115 
Dining in hall, 31 

Discontent at P.O., 262-265 ; at 

tentative rate, 162 
" Discourse on Our Digestive Organs," 

a, 132 

"Dismal Science," the, 28 
Disraeli, B. (Lord Beaconsfield), viii., 


Distribution an only function, 106 
Districts, London divided into, 74, 255 
Docker's mail-bags exchange apparatus, 


Dockwra, Wm., postal reformer, 71 ; 
inventor of local penny posts, intro- 
duces delivery of letters, divides city 
and suburbs into postal districts, 
opens over 400 receiving offices, 
introduces parcel post, etc., his rates 
lasting till 1801, then raised to swell 
war-tax, 74, 75 ; falls victim to Duke 
of York's jealousy, loses situation, 
ruined by law-suit, pensioned, pension 
revoked, he sinks into poverty, 76 ; 
his penny post falls upon evil days, 
83 ; remarks on his dismissal, 80, 
179, 213 

Dodd, Rev. Dr, 46 

Donati's comet, 266 

Dover Castle, 18 

Doyle, Sir A. C., "The Great 
Shadow," 10 

Drayton Grammar School, I 

Dubost, M., 157 

Dublin, 83, 206, 228 

Dudley, 50 

Duncannon, Lord, 138, 139, 141 

Duncombe, T., M.P., 114, 212 

Dundee, 189, 190, 191, 250 

Dunoon, 297 

Duty stamp on newspapers, 46, 47, 95 

EAGERNESS for postal reform among 
the poor, 124 

Eclipse, Mr Wills and the, 266 

Economy, how best secured, 253 

Edgeworth, Maria, 34, 35, 163 

Edinburgh, 54, 58, 59 ; one letter to, 
66, 78, 83, 85 ; cost of letter con- 
veyance to, 103 ; a mail-coach's 
postal burden, 115, 116, 233; postal 
revenue larger than that of Portugal, 

Edinburgh Review, the, 112 

Edison, 261 

Education, impetus given to, 166-168 

Edwards, Mr E., 15 

Egerton-Smith, Mr, 295 ft 

Egypt, postal rates to, 56 



Eight hours movement, an, 253 

Elcho, Lord, 245 

Elgin, Lord. (See Postmasters-General) 

Ellis, Mr Wm., 115 

Elmore, A., R.A., 34 

Emery, Mr, his evidence, 124 

Emigrants and emigrant ships, 20 

Employees, number of, in London, 259 

" Encyclopedia Britannica," the (ninth 
edition), mistakes in article on Post 
Office, 186-189, J 93> I 96> 201 

" Engaged to marry your Prince of 
Wales," 279 

England and Wales, Scotland and 
Ireland, letters in, 66, 138. (See also 
Number of letters) 

Envelopes, 51, 52, 186, 187 

Eothen, 35 

Episode of a wedding ring, 302 

Epping, 5 

Ericsson, 262 

"Essays of a Birmingham Manu- 
facturer" (Sargent), 16 

"Esther, The Book of," 72 

Estlin, Mr J., 297 

Etymology, lecture on, 266 

Euclid's Elements, 5 

Evasions, losses, and thefts, 57-60, 66- 
69, 106, 146, 147, 272-275 

Every division should be self-support- 
ing, 125 

Examinations, Civil Service, 257-261 

Exchange of bags apparatus (Docker's), 
239, 240 

Excursion and express trains, etc., 183 

Executions outside Newgate, 10 

Expenditure, increase of, 109, 170-172 

Extension of penny postage to Colonies, 

FACILITATING life insurance for staff, 

" Facts and Estimates as to the Increase 

of Letters," 135 
Faggot vote, a new kind of, 3 
" Fallacious return," the, 174 
Faraday, 206, 207 
" Feats on the Fiords," 15 
Fergusson, Sir Wm., 34 
Field, MrE. W., 32 
" Fifty Years of Public Life," 198 
Fire at Hazel wood, 18 
First letter posted under new system, 


Fitzgerald, Lord, 175 
Fitzmaurice, Lord, 184 
Foot and horse posts, 79 

Footman prefers public to domestic 

service, 254 

Forchammer, Professor, 279, 280 
Ford, Onslow, R.A., 300 
Foreign letters, reduction in postage of, 

165; foreign postal revenues, 156, 

252, 253 

pupils, 14 

Forging gun barrels, 10 

Forster, Mr M., M.P. ; Mr J., M.P., 


Forth bridge, the, 261 
Forty miles an hour, 232 
Four ounces weight limit, 108 
France, 14, 18, 35, 36, 79, 87 ; old 

postal system, 155-157; travelling in 

during the 'thirties, 158 ; adopts 

postal reform, 251, 266 
Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria, 37 
Francis, Mr J. C., 93, 95 
Franco-German War, the, 265 
Frankfort adopts postal reform, 251 
Franking system, the, 42-44, 45, 48, 

49, 100, 107 ; proposed return to, 211 
Franklin Expedition, the, 40 
Frauds and Evasions. (See evasions, 


Freedom of the City of London, 301 
Free library, etc., at Wolverhampton, 

25 ; at Hampstead, 33 
trade and protection, vii., viii., 

24, 101 

traders favour postal reform, 140 

Freniantle, Sir T., 120 

French Post Office, the, 155-158, 221 

revolutions. (See Revolution, etc.) 

Frenchman, a brave, 265 

Fry, Elizabeth, 117 

Funeral of the Duke of Wellington, 239 


Gallon, Sir D., 235, 267 

Garibaldi, 37, 278, 279 

Gavin, Dr, 253 

Gazette^ the, 261 

George I., 74 ; III., 47, 188 

German Postal Union, the, 252 

Germany, street letter-boxes in, 156 

Gibbets, II 

Gibraltar, 56 

Gladstone, Mrs, 141, 290 

, W. E., vii., viii., 37, 112, 268, 

288, 289, 290 
Glasgow, 54, 68, 233, 294 
Gledstanes, Mr, 115 
Globe, the, 19 
Gordon riots, the, 224 

3 i6 


Goulburn, H. (See Chancellors of the 


Gradual instalments, 268 
Graham, Thos., Master of the Mint, 34 
" Grahamising" letters, 114 
Graphic, the, 301 
Grasset, M., 158, 298 
Gravesend, newspapers sent vid t 46 
Great Exhibition of 1851, 95 ; of 1862, 


Northern Railway, 232 

" Great Shadow, The," Conan Doyle, 


Greece, 14, 113 
Greenock's first member, 98, 119. (See 

also Wallace, etc.) 
Gregory XIII., Pope, 8 1 
"Grimgribber Rifle Corps," the, 266 
Grote, Geo., M.P., 113 
Guildhall, the, 53, 76, 302 
" Guy Mannering," 50, 78 


Haddington, 4 

Hale, Sir Matthew, 81 

Half-ounce letters of eccentric weight, 
197 ; half-ounce limit, 108 

Hall, Captain Basil, 13 

Hall-door letter-boxes, 106, 131, 256 

Hamburg adopts postal reform, 251 

Hampstead, 29, 30, 32 

Hanover adopts postal reform, 251 

"Hansard," 43, 80, 99, 121, 176, 212 

Hardwick, Lord. (See Postmasters- 

Harley, Dr G. , 34 

Harlowe, another Clarissa, 3 

Hasker, 84 

Hawes, Sir B., 36 

Hazelwood school and system, 12-16 

" Heart of Midlothian, The," 66 

Henslow, Professor, 167, 225 

Henson, G., 39 

"Her Majesty's Mails" W. Lewins, 

" Here comes Dickens ! " 164 

Hereford, 221 

Herschel family, the, 34, 117 

High postal rates mean total prohibition, 


Highgate, 50 
Hill, Alfred, 250 

, Arthur, 18, 29, 297 

brothers, 8-16, 93, 94, 133 

, Caroline (born Pearson), 22, 23, 

26; Mr Wallace's congratulations, 
141 ; ** mother of penny postage," 

142 ; her help, unselfishness, and 
courage, 182, 212, 265 ; the wedding 
ring, 302 
Hill, Caroline (Mrs Clark), 16 

, Edwin, 93 ; his help, a mechanical 

genius, supervisor of stamps at Somer- 
set House, machines for folding and 
stamping newspapers, folding en- 
velopes, embossing Queen's head, 
etc., author of " Principles of 
Currency," "Criminal Capitalists," 
etc., 94, 95 ; anecdotes, 95, 96, 242, 

293> 297 

, Frederick, 237, 297 

, Dr G. B., author of " Life of Sir 

Rowland Hill," and editor of "The 
History of Penny Postage," viii, 17, 
38, 71, 112, 120, 193, 286-288 

, James, 2, 4, 5 

, John, postal reformer, 74 

, the younger, 3 

, Matthew Davenport, 4, 9, 21 ; 

helps reform, 93 ; first Recorder of 
Birmingham, 94 ; advises R. H. to 
publish pamphlet, 96 ; his reply to 
Croker, 112, 132, 150; "prophets 
who can assist in fulfilment of their 
own predictions," 150 ; an admirable 
letter, 152 ; on questioning Garibaldi, 
279, 293, 297 

, Miss Octavia, 28 

, Pearson, his help in preparing 

this book, ir. ; pamphlets, etc., 39, 
47, 50, 56, 57, 65, 66, 120, 145, 180, 
181, 188, 193; on writings upon 
postal reform, 187 ; perfects Docker's 
exchange-bags apparatus, is comple- 
mented by Sir Wm. Cubitt, invents 
stamp-obliterating machine, 240,241 ; 
Sir Wm. Armstrong's offer, 242 ; P. 
H. renounces true vocation and 
enters Post Office, appointed to 
examine mechanical inventions sent 
there, 243 ; reorganises Mauritius 
post office, 244, 297 

, R. and F., the Misses, authors 

of " Matthew Davenport Hill," etc., 

, Rev. Rowland, preacher, I 

, Sir Rowland (Lord Hill), warrior, 


} Lord Mayor of Lon- 
don, i 

, postal reformer, birth, 

7 ; weakly childhood, love of arith- 
metic, early ambition, helps in school, 


Hill, Sir Rowland, continued 
8-16; writes "Public Education" 
14 ; scene-painter, etc., wins drawing 
prize, 17; thrilling adventure, 18; 
takes home news of Waterloo, 88 ; 
joins Association for abolition of 
taxes on knowledge, 97 ; becomes 
Secretary to South Australian Com- 
mission, 1 8 ; the rotatory printing 
press, 21, 22 ; a young lover, 23 ; 
some of his friends, 28-37 ; his con- 
nection with the London and Brighton 
railway, 38, 182-184; the heavy 
burden of postal charges, 44 ; the 
franking system, 48 ; first to propose 
letter postage stamps, 49 ; Coleridge's 
story, 60 ; reformers before him, 70- 
91 ; many callings, 71 ; his penny 
post not identical with that of 
Dockwra, 75; on "the change of 
style," 81 ; doing something to the 
mail-coaches, 87 ; in mid-'twenties 
proposed travelling post office, 92 ; 
later conveyance of mail matter by 
pneumatic tube, 93 ; discussed 
application of lighter taxation to 
letters, his brothers' help, 93, 94; 
M. D. H. advises writing pamphlet, 
Chas. Knight publishes it, M.D.H.'s 
influential friends, 96; Mr Wallace 
and R. H., 98; Blue Books, 100 ; 
reasons out his plan, 100-108; Com- 
missioners of P.O. Inquiry and 
R. H.'s evidence and plan, 98; cost 
of conveyance of letters, 102-105 ; 
pamphlet issued, 109 ; plan privately 
submitted to Government and offered 
to them, declined, in, 149; Quarterly 
Review attacks plan, M. D. H. 
defends it in Edinburgh Review, 
112; the great mercantile houses, 
Press, etc., support reform, 116-118 ; 
Parliamentary Committee formed, j 
119; R. H. under examination, 119- 
120; in after years excuses P.O. 
hostility, 126 ; the Committee's good 
work, 129 ; penny postage to be 
granted, 134 ; writes two papers for 
Mercantile Committee, in House of 
Commons during debate, door- 
keepers on voting prospects, 135 ; 
R. H. writes to Duke of Wellington, 
present at third reading of Bill, 138 ; 
in House of Lords during debate, 
141 ; appointment in Treasury, 145 ; 
the outsider as insider, old opponents 
later become friends, 146, 147 ; 

adventures of a letter, 148 ; terms of 
engagement, 149-153 ; visits M. D. 
H. at Leicester, the latter's letter, 
151, 152; R. H.'s goal, 153; first 
visit to P.O., 154 ; finds building de- 
fective, early attendance at Treasury, 
'55 J visits Paris, 155-160; suggests 
adhesive stamps, 107, 135, 138, 160, 
196 ; accepts responsibility for pre- 
payment, 1 60 ; by stamps or money ? 
stamp troubles last for twelve months, 
161 ; tentative rate satisfactory, 
uniform penny postage established, 
162 ; congratulatory letters, 162 
163; royal visitors to P.O., 164; 
testimony to benefits of reform, 166- 
169, etc ; delay in issue of stamps, 
170; lavish increase of expenditure, 
official evasions, 171-176; visit to 
Newcastle - on - Tyne prevented, the 
"fallacious return," 174; error in 
accounts, 175 ; receives notice of 
dismissal, 176; offers to work with- 
out salary, 177 ; public indignant at 
dismissal, 177-179; R. H. and regis- 
tration fee, 178; leaves Treasury, 
179* 180; Lord Canning's curious 
revelation, ix., 181 ; will Peel raise 
postal rates? 181 ; joins London and 
Brighton Railway Directorate, 182- 
184 ; hears of M. de Valayer's inven- 
tion, 189 ; Mr Chalmers' correspond- 
ence with R. H., 192; R. H.'s pro- 
posals as to stamps, 196 ; Treasury 
decides to adopt them, 198 ; stamp 
obliteration troubles, 205-208 ; absurd 
fables, 209 ; Peel's Government falls, 
restoration to office of reformer de- 
manded, appointed to P.O., 211 ; 
compares his own case with that 
of Dockwra and Palmer, 213 ; Mr 
Warburton on terms, 214; R. H. 
willingly sacrifices good income for 
sake of reform, interview with Lord 
Clanricarde and Colonel Maberly, 
215; reorganises Bristol post office, 
also entire Money Order System, 
turns deficit into profit, many im- 
provements effected, 215-219; 
missives that go astray, 220 ; relief 
of Sunday labour, 222 - 227 ; the 
Chartists, 224 ; relief to Hong Kong 
officials, 228 ; post offices at railway 
stations suggested, 229 ; Parlia- 
mentary Committee on railway and 
canal charges, 230 ; efforts to obtain 
reasonable railway terms, 230-235 ; 


Hill, Sir Rowland, contimted 

Steamship Co.'s heavy charges, 230 ; 
tries to obtain use of all railway trains, 
an acceleration of North - Western 
night mail train, and adoption of 
limited mails, 232 ; suggests fines 
for unpunctuality and rewards for 
punctuality, etc., 233, etc. ; also 
Government loans to Railway Com- 
panies, 234 ; proposes trains limited 
to P.O. use, 235 ; Packet Service 
contracts : these often made without 
P.O. knowledge or control, 236; 
route to Australia by Panama longer 
than rival route, R. H.'s report to 
that effect, 238; exchange of mail- 
bags operation, 239 ; stamp-oblitera- 
tion experiments, 240 ; workshop 
fitted up for P. H., who renounces 
prospects as civil engineer, 242-243 ; 
R. H. examined by Commission to 
revise postal employees' salaries, 245 ; 
good work done by Commission, 246 ; 
Conservatives and Peelites, R. H. 
becomes Secretary to the P.O., 247 ; 
his love of organisation, 248 ; en- 
courages staff to independence of 
opinion : excellent results, new post 
offices erected and old ones improved, 
provision against fire made, building, 
etc., transferred to Board of Works : 
consequent increase of expenditure, 
249; publication of "Annual 
Reports" begins, 250 ; minor reforms 
made, postal reform adopted by many 
countries, 251, 252 ; R. H. advocates 
economy by better organisation, a 
medical officer appointed, 253 ; 
secures better terms for employees 
253, 254 ; his doctor's footman, 254 ; 
London divided into districts, 255 ; 
R. H. on Civil Service examinations, 
257-261 ; era of peace, discontent and 
threatening anonymous letters, libels 
by dismissed officials, worse threats, 
R. H.'s coolness, uneasiness of 
colleagues, 262-265 ; lecture on the 
annular eclipse, 266; P.O. volunteer 
corps, is introduced to inventor of 
Post Office Savings Bank scheme, 

267 ; reform by gradual instalments, 

268 ; compulsory prepayment of 
postage, 268, 269 ; again recommends 
parcel post, pattern post established, 
registration fee reduced, and com- 
pulsory prepayment at last obtained, 
270; decrease of losses, tricks and 

evasions, 271 ; old opponents friends, 
Messrs Bokenham, Page, etc., 275- 
277 ; R. H. and Garibaldi, 278 ; R. 
H. and a Danish professor, 279 ; on 
successive Postmasters-General, 280- 
285 ; final breakdown in health, 
resignation, 285 ; pen-portraits and 
appreciations, 286-289 ; letters of 
sympathy, 290 ; joins Royal Com- 
mission on Railways, his early lesson 
in Astronomy, prepares his auto- 
biography, 291 ; his remarks on own 
career, 292 ; his spirit at a stance 
293 ; honours, testimonials, etc., 294- 
302 ; two stories of a torn coat, 297 ; 
strange adresses, " Mr Owl O'Neill," 
etc., 298 ; vases from Longton, 
pictures from Liverpool, statues, etc., 
300; photographs, etc., presentation 
of the Freedom of the City of 
London, 301 ; death, his two noblest 
monuments, two Jubilee celebrations, 
302; his fittest epitaph, 303-305; 
"Results of Postal Reform," 286, 

Hill, Sarah (Lea), 4, 7, 8, 10 

(Symonds), 4, 6 

, Thos. Wright, 5, 6, 7, 10, 15, 

16, 17, 94, 138, 291, 297 

" Hillska Scola," a, 14 

Hincks, Rev. Wm., 297 

" History of England, The," Macaulay, 

"History of Our Own Times, The," 
Justin M'Carthy, 75, 92, 133 

"History of the Post Office, The," 
H. Joyce, 42, 45, 55, 56, 63, 70, 
7i, 72, 73, 75, 76, 92 

"History of the Thirty Years' Peace, 
The," H. Martineau, 40, 41 

Hodnet, Shropshire, I 

Hoffay, Mr, 245 

Hogarth, 81 

Holland, 109. (See also Netherlands) 

Holyhead, 54, 233 

" Home Colonies and Extinction of 
Pauperism, "etc., 109; home colonies 
in Belgium and Holland, 109 

Hong Kong post office, 228; clerks' 
holiday, 229 

Honours, testimonials, etc., 294, 302 

Hood, "Gentle Tom," 178, 179 

Hostility of P.O. (See Opposition, 

Hourly deliveries, 107 

House of Commons, 43, 72, 96, III, 
113, 114, n6; Committee on Postage, 



House of Commons, continued 

121-130; debates on Penny Postage 

Bill, 135, 138, 178, 224 
House of Lords, 43, 96, in, 136, 139 ; 

passes Penny Postage Bill, 141, 224 
Household Words, 163, 266 
Huddersfield, 268 
"Hudibras," 5 
Huguenot Knight, Millais', 7 
Hume, J., M.P., 133, 134, 212 
Hungarian refugees, 37 
''Hungry 'Forties," the, 61, 169 
Hunt, Leigh, 35, no 
Hutchinson, Mr, 234 
Hydrographer to the Admiralty, the, 



Iddesley, Lord. (See Northcote, Sir S.) 

Impetus to education and trade, 166-169 

Improvement in locomotion, viii. 

Improvements in Money Order system, 
account-keeping, holidays, 219; in 
life insurance and other funds, 219, 
220 ; in lot of letter-carriers, sorters, 
etc., 253, 254, etc. 

Income, a poor man's daily, 42 

Increase of employment, pay, and 
prosperity, 101 ; of postal expendi- 
ture, 109, 170, 171, 172; of deliveries, 
256 ; of facilities and speed in con- 
veyance, 69, 257 

Indian Mutiny, the, 282 ; P.O. becomes 
self-supporting, 253 

Indignation at R. H.'s dismissal, 177- 

Industrial emancipation, Gladstone on, 
vii., viii. 

Inglis, Sir R. H., M.P., 138 

Inland letters most profitable part of 
P.O. business, 169 

Revenue Board, the, 119, 188, 


Inquirer, the, 297 

" Intercourse, Liberation of," vii., 125 

"Invasion of the Crimea, The," 

Kinglake, 35 

Ireland, 44, 54, 66, 73, 74, 77, 133, 233 
Irish famine, the, 81 

haymakers and harvesters, 133 

in Manchester, 65 

Iron horse more formidable than foe 

on battlefield, 137 

JAMAICA Bill, the, 144 
James II., 76, 77 
Jansa, Herr, 37 

Jefferson, President, 14 

"John Halifax," Miss Mulock, 31 

John O'Groat's, 234 

Johnson, post official, 84 

, Dr, 112 

Jones, Loyd (Lord Overstone), 39, 124 
Journal de St Pdtersbourg, Le, 252 
Joyce, Mr Herbert, "The History of 

the Post Office," 42, 45, 55, 56, 63, 

70, 71, 72, 76, 92 
Jubilee, Queen Victoria's first, 39 
of the Uniform Penny Postage, 

57, 120 
Jullien, M., 14 

KAYE, Sir J., 195 

Keats, John, 29 

Kelly, Messrs ("The London Direc- 
tory"), 301 

Kidderminster, 3, 7, 300, 303 

King Edward's head (postage stamp), 

Kinglakes, the, 35 

Kinkel, Gottfried, 38 

Knight, Charles, 32 ; publishes "Post 
Office Reform," 96 ; first to propose 
use of impressed stamp, 107, 158, 
168, 189 

Kossuth, 37 

Kubla Khan, 72 

LABOUCHERE, H. (Lord Taunton), 


Lachine Rapids, 238 
Lamb, Chas. , 29 
Lambeth, 76 
Land's End, 234 
Larousse, ' ' Dictionnaire du XlXf 

Siecle," 79, 1 86, 298 
Larpent, Sir Geo., 296 
Last woman burnt, 9 
Lea, Provost, 4 ; Sarah (see Hill, 

Sarah) ; William, 4 
Ledingham, Mr, 207 
Leeds Afercury, the, 117, 226, 267 
Lefevre, J. S. (First Lord Eversley), 19 
Leitrim, 77 
Letter, adventures of a, 148, 149 

boxes, door, 106, 107, 131, 256 

carriers, 41, 62, 63, 105, 106 ; 

improvement in lot of, 220, 253, 254, 
etc. ; letter-carrier and footman, 254; 
amalgamation of two corps of, 255, 
256 ; the right sort of men as, 258, 


folding a fine art, 52 

smuggling, 66-69, 121, 133 



" Letters, Conversations, and Recollec- 
tions of S. T. Coleridge," 60 
"Letters of George Birkbeck Hill," 

Mrs L. Crump 

Letters subjected to protective rates, 

54; refused, mis-sent, etc., loss on, 

62 ; no delivery before Dockwra's 

time, 74; losses of, 146, 147, 221 ; 

number of, after reform, 133, 165, 168, 

169, 239; after extension of rural 

distribution, 255 ; sorted en route, 

227 ; strangely addressed, 297, 298 

Lewins, Mr, " Her Majesty's Mails," 66 

Lewis, Sir G. C. (See Chancellors of 

the Exchequer) 

Liberation of Intercourse, vii., 125 
Lichfield, Lord. (See Postmasters- 

" Lie Waste," the, II 
" Life endurable but for its pleasures," 

"Life of Lord Granville," Lord Fitz- 

maurice, 184 

" Life of Sir Rowland Hill, and History 
of Penny Postage," G. B. Hill,viii., 
38, etc. 

Limited Liability Act, the, 32 
Lines, Mr, 162 
Liverpool, 24, 39, 68, 83, 227, 294, 

300, 301 
Liverpool Mercury, the, 117, 295 ; Post 

and Mercury, 52 
Lloyd, Mr Jas., 300 
Local posts, 53, 74, 75, 76, 83, 84 
Lombard Street office, 74 
London and Brighton railway, 38, 182- 
184, 185 

divided into postal districts by 

Dockwra, 74 ; by Rowland Hill, 255 

, pop. one - tenth, correspond - 

ence, one-fourth of the United 
Kingdom, 255 
London School Magazine, 17 
London University, 130 
Londonderry, 54 

Long distance runs in the 'forties, 232 
Longton, Staffordshire Potteries, 300 
Lonsdale, Lord. (See Postmasters- 

" Lord Queen's Head," 299 
"Lord's Day Society's" mistaken action, 


Lords of the Treasury, 190, 220 
Losses of letters, etc., 146, 147, 220, 

221, 271 
Loughton, 50 
Louis Philippe, King, 157 

Louis XIV., 187 

Lowther, Lord. (See Postmasters- 

Lubeck adopts postal reform, 251 
Lyell, Sir Chas., 34 
Lyon, Mr W., 301 

MABERLY, Colonel (Sec. to the P.O.) 
disapproves of postal reform, 121, 
122, 150, 155, 173, 214, 215 ; Yates 
on, 154; commands at P.O. on 
"Chartist Day," at time of Sunday 
labour question, 223; leaves P.O., 
247 ; excellent appointments, 248 

MacAdam, 85 

Macaulay, 112, 114, 131,226, 238, 273 

Macdonald ( Times'}^ 22 

Mackenzie family, the, 5 

Madrid, 78 

Mahony, Mr, M.P., 120 

Mails, the, by land coaches, 64, 79, 
82-90, 98, 103, 170; railways, 109, 
115, 122, 227, 240; cost of convey- 
ance of, 109, etc., 230-235 

, by sea. (See Packet Service) 

Majority of 102 for Penny Postage Bill, 

Manchester, 39, 65, 83, 84 ; number of 
letters equals that of all Russia, 252 

Manchester G^^ard^an, the, 117 

" Manchester School," the, 134 

Mander, Mr J. , 25 

Manning, "The Queen's Ancient 
Serjeant," 36 

" Manual of Geography," a, 5 

Map of Europe, political changes in, 

I Marco Polo's travels : the posts, 72 

Margate postmaster's report, 69 

Marian martyr, a, 294 

Married Women's Property Act, 118 

Martineau, Harriet, 15, 34, 40, 41, 55, 
60, 131, 162 

Master of the Posts (Witherings), 73 

"Matthew Davenport Hill," by his 
daughters, 96 

Mauritius post office reorganised, 244 

Maury, Mr, 68 

Mayer, Mr, 295 

Mayor, the Lord, 113 

Mazzini, 37, 114 

M'Carthy, J., "History of Our Own 
Times," etc., 75, 92, 133 

M'Kinley, Mr P., 302 

Mediterranean, postal rates to the, 56 

Melbourne, Lord. (See Prime Ministers) 

Mellor, Mr Justice, 36 



Mendi bridge, 54, 161 

Mercantile Committee, the, 114, 135, 
136, 137, 179, 190, 200, 296 

houses and postal reform, 114 

Mercury, a transit of, 291 

Merit, promotion by, 257, 258, 262 

Mexico, 14 

Mezzofanti, Cardinal, 230 

Miles, Mr Pliny, 230 

Milford, 54 

Mill, James and John Stuart, 34 

Millais, Sir J. E., 7 

Millington's hospital, 2, 4 

Moffat, Mr Geo., M.P., 113, 134, 137, 

Monckton, Sir G. , 302 

Money Order System, 140 ; how 
founded, unsatisfactory financial con- 
dition, 217 ; R. H. undertakes its 
management, it becomes self-support- 
ing, increase of business, decrease of 
fraud, unclaimed money orders made 
use of, etc., 216-222 ; extension of 
system to colonies, 220 

Monteagle, Lord, 175, 290. (See also 
Spring Rice) 

Morgan, Professor de, 272, 273 

Morley, John, M.P., vii. 

Morning Chronicle, the, 56, 116 

Morrison, Dillon, & Co., Messrs, 115 

" Mother of Penny Postage, the," 142 

Mulready, W., R. A., 34 ; his envelope, 
204, 205 

Murray, R., postal reformer, 70, 74 

My grandmother's brewings jeopar- 
dised, 10 

NAPIER, Sir Wm., i 

Naples (the two Sicilies) adopts postal 

reform, 251 
Napoleon, story of, 27, 28 ; the 

dttenus, 35, 36, 260 
Natal, 237 

National Gallery, the, 33 
Navigation Act, repeal of the, vii. 
Netherlands, the, adopts postal reform, 

2 5 r 
"New Annual Directory for 1800, 

The," 53, 76 

Brunswick postmaster, 199 

Newcastle-on-Tyne, 77, 173, 253 
Newgate, executions outside, 10 
New Grenada adopts postal reform, 251 

industries created, 169 

meaning of the word " post," 72 

South Wales, 65 

York, 68 

Newsbearers, coaches as, 87, 88 
Newspapers, 46, 47, 57-6o, 97, 116, 
117, 129 ; stamp duty on, 46, 47, 95. 
(See also Press) 
Newton, Sir Isaac, 104 
Nicholson, Mr, inventor, 21 

, Mr (Waverley Abbey), 267 

Nightingale, Florence, 117 
Nineteenth Century, the, viii. 
Ninth part of a farthing, the, 104 

Report of the Commissioners of 

P.O. Inquiry, 98, 196 
Nominations, system of, 246 
" Nonsense of a Penny post," 131 
"No Rowland Hills wanted," 185 
North British Railway, 233 
North-Western Railway, 227, 232 
Northcote, Sir Stafford (Lord Iddesley), 

235, 245 

Northern diligence, the, 78 
Norway, 15, 251 
Norwich, 77 

Notes and Queries, 9, 52, 93 
Number of letters after reform, 133, 
165, 168 ; in two years' time, 169 ; 
in seventh year of reform number 
delivered in and round London equal 
to those for the entire United King- 
dom under old system, 214, 239; 
after extension of rural distribution, 
255, 256 

OBLITERATION by hand (stamping), 

206, 240, 241 
Ocean penny postage, 229 
O'Connell, Daniel, M.P., 88, 132, 133; 

M. J., M.P., 120, 127 
Offer (R. II.'s) to give plan of postal 

reform to Government, ill, 149; to 

give services at Treasury gratuitously, 


Official account-keeping and " blun- 
ders," 174, 175, 176 
Old opponents become friendly, 147, 
246, 247, 275 

postal system, the, 39-69 ; in 

France, 155-157 

Oldenburg adopts postal reform, 251 
" Oldest and ablest officers, the," So 
"On the Collection of Postage by Means 

of Stamps," 135, 200 
Opening letters in the P.O., 114, 115 
Opposition honest and dishonest, 93, 
120-122, 125, 126, 145-147, 202, 

212, 275-278 

" Origin of Postage Stamps, The," 50, 
i 88, 193 




Oscar, Prince, 14 

Osier, Mr Follett, 13 

Oswald, Dr and Miss, 38 

Ounce limit, the first proposal, 108 

Outsiders as reformers, 146, 265, 267 

Owen, Robert, 34, 114 

Oxford, 299 

" PACE that killed, the," 85 
Pacific Ocean's enormous width, 238 
Packet Service, the, 174, 175 ; Com- 
mission sits on, contract mail-packets, 
etc., management transferred to 
P.O., evils of Admiralty control, 
West Indian packet service, Union 
Steamship Co., services to Cape of 
Good Hope, Honduras, Natal, reduc- 
tions in cost, Australia vid Panama 
not the shortest route, cost of convey- 
ance, 230, 235-238 ; improved com- 
munication, foreign and colonial, 257 
Page, Mr Wm., 276, 277 ; Messrs E. 

and H., 276 

Palmer, John, postal reformer, 71 ; 
favours Bath, increases number of 
coaches, 77 ; proposes abolition of 
foot and horse posts, causes stage to 
become mail coaches, 79 ; a visionary, 
80; placed in authority, by 1792 all 
coaches new, first quick coach to 
Bath, 82 ; robbery nearly ceases, 
traverses the entire kingdom, 83 ; 
looks to newspaper and penny posts, 
84 ; coaches said to go at dangerous 
speed, reach highest level of pro- 
ficiency, 85; are beaten by "iron 
horse," 86 ; remarks on his dismissal, 
80, 179, 213, 214 ; a born organiser, 

"Palmer of Ireland, The," Bianconi, 

Palmerston, Lord. (See Prime Ministers) 

Panama, mails vid, 237, 238 

Panizzi, Sir Antonio, 37 

Paper-duty, the, 97 ; stamps for " the 
American Colonies," 188 

Parcel post recommended, 270 

Paris, 56, 155-158, 1 86, 221 

Parker, Mr, M.P., 212 

, Mr, M.P. (Sheffield), 120 

Society, the, 168 

Parricide and matricide, 226 

Parsons, Mr, 206 

, MrJ. M., 183, 184 

Patent Office, the, 21 

Patronage, relinquished, 246 

Pattern post introduced, 270 

Pattison, MrJ., 115 
Peabody : American philanthropist, 188 
Peace of Amiens, the, 35, 88 
Peacock, Mr, Solicitor to the P.O. 121, 

126, 265 

Pearson, Alex., 27, 28; Caroline, 
(see Hill); Clara, 26; Joseph, 

Pease, Mr, M.P., 120 
Peculation rife under old system, 63 
Peel, Sir Robert, 48, 138, 144. (See 

also Prime Ministers) 
Peelites and Conservatives, 247 
Pegasus, wreck of the, 5 
Penny postage proposed in Budget of 
I 839, 135; passes in Commons, 138, 
in Lords, 142 ; established, 162 ; 
education encouraged, severed ties 
reknit, 166, 167 ; beneficial effect 
on trade, etc., 168, 169 ; other than 
inland, 230; and Garibaldi, 227, 
228 ; two Jubilee celebrations, 302 

posts, Dockwra's, 74, 75 ; other 

local, 33, 76, 83, 84 
Perkins, Bacon, & Co., Messrs, 198, 

200, 201, 206, 207 
Peru adopts postal reform, 251 
" Peter Plymley's Letters," Sydney 

Smith, 89 
Petitions in favour of penny postage, 

113, 124 

Phillips, Professor, 207 
Pickford, Messrs, 168 
Pictures from Liverpool, 300 
Pillar and wall letter-boxes. (See Street 


Pirate States and pirate raids, 14, 15 
Piron, M., Sous Direct eur des Pastes 

aux Lettres, 157, 158, 187, 188 
Place, Mr, and " Post Office Reform," 


Plampin, Admiral, 27 
Plymouth, 20, 77 ; the postmaster of, 


Pneumatic tubes, 93 
Poerio, 37 
Political Economy Club, the, 19, 120 

heads of P.O. no drones, 284 

Poole, Mr S. L., "The Barbary 

Corsairs," I 



Poor Law Official Circular, The," 

Poor sufferers from dear postage, 42, 

55, 59-62, 123 
Pope, Alex., 55, 71 
"Popular Tales," Miss Edgeworth, 




Portugal adopts postal reform, 251; 
postal revenue smaller than that of 
Edinburgh, 252 

Post, new meaning of the word, 72 

Postcards, 293 

Post Circular, the, 190, 191 

Post Office account-keeping, 62-64, 
105, 106 ; authorities oppose reform, 
120-122, 125, 126, etc. ; Money 
Order system during Crimean war, 
140 (see also Money Order system) ; 
becomes servant to entire nation, 
144, 209 ; only department not show- 
ing deficiency of revenue, 176 ; P.O. 
-versus Stamp Office, 202; Widows' 
and Orphans' Fund, 220 ; trans- 
ference of appointments to, 246 ; 
unjust accusations against, 272 

" Post Office Directory, The," 301 

, Indian, self-supporting, 


Library and Literary 

Association, the, 266 

"Post Office of Fifty Years Ago, 
The," 39, 47, 5$, 65, 66, 145 

" Post Office Reform," 40, 63, 64, 99, 
101, 104, 106, 107, 109, no, in, 
143, 192, 196, 213 

Savings Bank, the, 220, 


surveyors, the, 222 

Offices, etc., great increase in 

number of, 156 

, Registrars' districts with- 
out, 64, 65 

officials fear increase of business, 


Postage "single," "double," " treble," 
etc., 49-52, 55, 57 

stamps, 49, 51, ""53 ; impressed 

and embossed, 95 ; description of 
adhesive, 107, 135, 160 ; delay in 
issue, 170; their collection, mis- 
leading accounts in the " Encyclo- 
paedia Britannica," and elsewhere, 
1 %5~ 1 93> etc. ; envelopes, M. de 
Valayer's private post, 186 ; doings 
of Sardinian P.O., 187 ; stamps on 
newspaper wrappers, 107, 158, 189 ; 
stamps useless without uniformity 
of rate and prepayment, 189, etc. ; 
R. H.'s proposals, 196, 198, etc. ; 
adhesive stamps recommended in 
"Post Office Reform," and " Ninth 
Report of the Commissioners of 
Post Office Inquiry," official approval 
of prepayment by stamps, 196; 

Treasury invites public to send in 
designs, results disappointing, why 
monarch's portrait was chosen, 199 ; 
precautions against forgery, 197-199 ; 
description of stamp-making, 200 ; 
Messrs Perkins & Co. make stamps 
first forty years of new system, are 
succeeded by Messrs De La Rue, 
stock nearly destroyed by fire, 201 ; 
changes of colour, 201, 208 ; why 
issue delayed, 202 ; eagerly adopted 
when issued, where to stick Queen's 
head ? anecdotes, 203 ; uncancelled 
stamps, the Mulready envelope, 204 ; 
cleaning off obliterations, 205-208 ; 
public interested, many experiments 
and suggestions, 206, 207 ; the 
black penny becomes red, 208 ; 
public prefer adhesive to embossed, 
absurd fables, 209 

Postal Circular, the, 251 

Postal contribution to war-tax, the, 

47, 55, 76 

districts, London divided into, 

74, 255 

Postal Guide, the British, 251 
Postal Parliament, a, 222 

rates. (See Postage "single," 

etc., and other headings) 

reform and reformers, 7-9, 

100, 108, 127, 129, 144, 180, etc. 

revenue. (See Revenue, etc.) 

Service, advantages of, 254 

Union, the, 276 

Postmaster-General on crutches, a, 


Lord Lichfield, 120, 139 
Lowther, 120, 178, 182 

Clanricarde, 212, 213, 214, 

215-219, 224, 229, 230, 280 

Hardwicke, 247, 248, 268, 

286, 281 

Canning, ix., 181, 235, 281, 

282, 284 

Duke of Argyll, 184, 234, 241, 259, 

Lord Colchester, 220, 238, 267, 283 

Elgin, 283, 284, 299 

A later Postmaster-General, 284, 


Postmen. (See Letter-carriers) 
Potatoes at Kidderminster, 3, 7, 
Prepayment of postage, 49, 105, 106, 

107, 124, 160, 162, 189, 196, 202, 

203, 228, 268, 269, 270 
Press-gang, the, 10, II 

3 2 4 


Press, the, generally favours postal 

reform, 116; on R. H.'s dismissal, 

177. (See also newspapers) 
Priestley, Joseph, 6, 7 
Prime Ministers 

Lord Melbourne, in, 133, 134, 135, 
136, 138, 139, 141, 144, 145, 171, 
173, 291 

Sir Robert Peel, 143, 177, 180, 181, 
182, 184, 211 

Lord John Russell, 211, 212, 280, 
281, 296 

Palmerston, 299 

W. E. Gladstone, 289. (See also 

Chancellors of the Exchequer) 
Prince of Wales, the, 280, 299 
Princess's portrait, a, 279 
"Principles of Currency," Edwin 

Hill, 95 

Printing press, the rotatory, 21, 22, 71 
Private penny post, M. de Valayer's, 

157, 158, 186-188 

Profitless expenditure, 51, 60-62, etc, 
Promotion by merit, 257, 258, 262 
Prophecies and prophets, 80, 130 
Protection applied to correspondence, 

54 161 

Protestant despoiler, a, 88 
Prussia adopts postal reform, 251 
Public buildings barricaded, 224 
" Public Education," 14 
Pulteney, Sir Wm., 66 
Punch, 136, 1 80, 184, 299, 303-305 
Pump, story of a, 146, 147 
Puritans, the, 4, 6 

Q UA R TERL y RE VIE W, the, 112, 187 
Queen Adelaide, 19 

Anne, 76 

Caroline's trial, 87 

Victoria, 39, 40, 64, 66, 119 

Queen's head : postage stamp, 95, 167, 

199, 205, 208, 294 
Quincey, De, 16, 35 

RADICAL Row, 144 

Radnor, Lord, 113, 135 

Raikes Currie, Mr, M.P., 120, 127 

Railway, London and Brighton, etc. 
(See other headings) 

Railways, supersede coaches, 89, 109 ; 
conveyance of mails by train dearer 
than by coach, mails first go by rail 
(1838), 109; heavy subsidies to, 170, 
171, etc. ; sorting of letters on, 227, 
228 ; applications made to, accelera- 
tion of night mails, companies 

demand increased payments, twenty- 
one separate contracts, trains limited 
to P.O. service, 231-235 ; improved 
communication, 257 

Ramsey, Mr, 221 

Rea, Mr E., 252 

"Recollections and Experiences," E. 
Yates, 154, 280, 285 

Recovery of gross revenue, 122, 165 

Reform Bill of 1832, the, 23, 98 

" Reformer, the," 195 

Registrars' districts without post offices, 

Registration of letters, 99; fees, 178, 

' ' Registration, The Transfer of Land 
by," 19 

Relays of horses, 82 

Relief to Hong Kong officials, 228, 229 

Rennie, Sir J., 261 

Report of the Committee of Inquiry 
(1788), 80; of the Committee on 
Postage (1843), 169 

Reports of the Commissioners of Inland 
Revenue, 63, 95 ; of the Com- 
missioners of Post Office Inquiry, 
98, 196, 197 ; of the Select 
Committee on Postage (1838), 42, 
58, 64, 65, 67, 69, 103, 123-126, 
129, 130 

" Results of Postal Reform," 286, 307- 

3 11 
Revenue from coaches, increase of, 102 

, National, 72, 97 

, Postal, 42, 43 ; in seventeenth 

century, 72, 73, 102, 108, 109, 122, 

126, 165, 169, 175, 176, 252 ; foreign, 

102, 156 
Revolution, the French, of 1789, 14, 

17 ; of 1848, 158, 221 
Richmond, the Duke of, 137 
Rintoul, R. S., the Spectator, 116, 

117; his daughter, 117 
Riots at Birmingham, 7 
Ritchie, Mrs Richmond, 34 
Roberts, David, R.A., 32 
Robespierre's Secretary, 14 
" Robinson Crusoe," 5 
Roebuck, J. A., M.P., 36, 43 
Rogers, S., c< the banker poet," 32 
Roget, Dr, "The Thesaurus," 35 
Romance in a culvert, 23 ; in a coach, 

89, 90 

Romantic lawsuit, a, 159, 160 
Romilly, Sir S., 10 
"Rowland Hill Benevolent Fund, 

The," 302 



" Rowland Hill : where he is," 298 

Rufini, 37 

Rural distribution, 166, 167, 170, 172, 

2 55 
Russell, Lord John (Earl Russell), 36, 

I 34> 1 35> 2O 5' (See also Prime 

Russia adopts postal reform, 251, 252 ; 

number of letters in 1855, 253 

S. G. O.'s LETTERS, 169 

Sabden, 65 

Sabine, Sir E., 34 

St Alban's and Watford mails, 227 

St Colomb, Cornwall, 7 1 

St Helena, Napoleon at, 27, 28 

St Martin's-le-Grand, 153, 154, 163, 

228, 243, 248, 250, 253, 256, 262, 

263-265, 277, 293 
St Peter, 279 
St Priest, M., 158 
Salisbury, Lady, 141 
Saltney, Gladstone at, 289 
San Francisco, 57 
Sardinia, 187, 188, 251 
Sargent, Mr W. L., 16 
Saturday night deliveries, 227 
Savages in England, n 
Savings Bank. (See Post Office, etc.) 
Saxony adopts postal reform, 251 
Say, three generations, 158 
Scholefield, Mr, M.P., 113 
Schoolmistress, an ill-informed, 294 
Scotland, 54, 66, 73, 74, 297 
Scotsman, the, 117 
Scott, Sir Benjamin, 302 

, Sir Walter, 50, 66, 78, 79, 99, 

295, 296 

Secretary to the P.O., Scotland, 21 1 
" Sedition made easy," 1 12 
" Seminaries of Useless Knowledge," 


Settembrini, 37 
Seven miles an hour ! Preposterous ! 

Seymour, Lord (Duke of Somerset), 

120, 128, 138 
Shaftesbury, Lord, 48 
Sheffield, near Rotherham, 84 
Sherman, Mr, 293 
Shiel, Mr, 114 
Shrewsbury, 2 
Siberia, postal rates to, 57 
Sibthorpe, Colonel, M.P., 136 
Sikes, Sir Chas., 267 
Simplicity versus complications, 105 
Smeaton, 261 

Smith, Mr B., M.P., 36 

" Smith, John," and friend's fraud, 58, 

60, 69 

, MrJ. B., M.P., 36, 143 

, Southwood, Dr, 28 

-, Sydney, i, 89, 131 

Smithfield and the martyrs, 157 

Smuggling letters, 66-69, 121, 133 

Smyth, Admiral, 34 

Snooks ! 203 

"Society for the Diffusion of Useful 

Knowledge," the, 139 

of Arts, the, 299 

"Some Memories of Books," a story 

from, 59 

Somerset House, 94, 95 
Somerville, Mary, 117 
Sorters, improvement in their lot, 253, 

Sorting in travelling post offices, 92, 

227, 228 

Southampton, the press-gang at, 1 1 
South Australian Commission, the, 19, 


Kensington Museum, the, 191, 


South- Western Railway Co.'s offer, 215 
Spain, 14; adopts postal reform, 251, 


Spanish gentlemen to the rescue, 29 
Spectator, the, Il6 
Spencer, Herbert, 261, 262 
Spirits called from the vasty deep, 293 
Spring Rice. (See Chancellors of the 

Spy, taken for a, 18 
Squire's firewood, the, 3 
Stamp obliteration, 241 

Office versus P.O., 202 
"Stamped covers, stamped paper, and 

stamps to be used separately," 197 
Stamps and Taxes (Inland Revenue) 

Office, 119, 1 88, 197 

, postage. (See Postage stamps) 

Stanfield, Clarkson, R.A., 32, 300 
Stanley Gibbons & Co., Messrs, 201 

of Alderley, Lord, 284, 285 

Stationery and walking-sticks, 272 
Statues at Birmingham, Kidderminster, 

and London, 30x5 

Steamship Co.'s. (See Packet Service) 
Stephenson, Geo., no, 260 
Stockholm, 14 

" Story of Gladstone's Life, The," 133 
Stow & Co., '217 
Stowe, John, I 
Stracheys, the, 5 



Strangely addressed letters, 297, 298 

Street letter-boxes, 147, 156, 187 

Sun, the, 226 

Sunday labour relief measures, 222-227 

Survivals of the Old System, 255 

Sweden, 14, 251 

Swift, Dean, 52 

Swindon, 266 

Switzerland adopts postal reform, 251 

Symondses, the, 2, 4, 5 

TAUNTON, Lord. (SeeLabouchere, Mr) 
"Taxes on knowledge," 47, 97, 189 
"Taxing" letters, 49, 105, 106, 116, 


Taylor, R. (Marian martyr), 294 
Telegraphs, State purchase of, 267, 

268, 293 
Telford, 85, 261 

Tentative fourpenny rate, 133, 161 
Tenth January 1840, scene at the 

General Post Office, 162 
Testimonials and honours, 294-302 
Tettenhall Road and the culvert, 23 
Thackeray, 30, 31, 34, 35, 83 
Thayer, M., 221 
Theft, story of a, 274 
" There go the Corn Laws ! " 141 
"Thesaurus, The," Dr Roget, 35 
Thompson, Colonel Perronet, 143, 225 

SirtL, 34 

Thomson, Poulett, M.P. (Lord Syden- 

ham), 120, 128 

Thornley, Mr Thos., M.P., 24, 120 
Throckmorton, Mr, 24 
Thurso, 54 

Tichborne claimant, the, 194 
Tilly, Sir J., 284 
Times, the, 116, 129, 216, 226 
Tipping the little Hills with gold, 184 
Torn coat, two stories of a, 297 
Torrens, Colonel, 19 

, Sir R., 19 

Tottenham, 14 

Travelling in France in the 'thirties, 


post offices, 92, 227, 228 

Travers, Mr J., 115 

Treasury, the, invites public to send 

in designs for stamps, 194, 197, 249, 

251, 286 
Trevelyan, Sir Chas., 245 

Sir Geo., 273 

Trial by jury at school, 12 
Tripolitan ambassador, the, 14 
Trollope, Anthony, 277, 278 
Turner, J. W. M., R.A., 18, 33, 34 

Tuscany adopts postal reform, 251 
Twenty-one separate contracts, 234 
Two sympathetic door-keepers, 135, 


" Two Letters," Gladstone's famous, 37 
Two thousand petitions, 113 
Twopenny post, the, 84, 161, 255 
rate, proposed and carried, 


Tyburn, 46 
Tyson, Mr, 52 

UMBRELLA, story of an, 33 
Unclaimed money and valuables, 219, 

Uniformity of postal rates, 105, 108, 

125, etc. 
" Union of my children has proved 

their strength, the," 94 

Steamship Co. , the, 236 

United States, 56; mails to, 68, 69; 

civil war predicted, 230 ; adopts 

postal reform, 251, 252 
Unjust accusations, P.O., 272 
Unpaid letters in 1859, 269 
Uselessness of postage stamps before 

1840, 49, etc. 

VALAYER, M. de, 157, 158, 186-188 

Vases from Longton, 300 

Vaughan, Dr, 225 

Victorian women, the early, 117, 118 

Villiers, Hon. C. P., M.P., 24, in, 

120, 149 
Vinter, Mr, 301 
Virginia, the University of, 14 
Vision of mail-coaches, a, 86, 87 
Voluntary work at Hazelwood, 13 ; at 

the P.O., 222-224 
Volunteers, the P.O., 266 

WAGES, increase of. (See Improve- 
ments, etc.) 
Wakefield, E. G., 19 
Walcheren Expedition, the, 159 
Wales, the Princess of, 279 
Wall letter-boxes. (See Street, etc.) 
Wallace of Kelly, R., M.P., postal 
reformer, 90 ; proposes charge by 
weight, public competition in mail 
coach contracts, appointment of 
Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry 
(Postage), establishment of day mails, 
registration of letters, reduction of 
postal charges, more frequent mails, 
etc., 98, 99 ; advocates R. H.'s plan, 
sends him Blue Books, 100 ; Chair- 



Wallace of Kelly, R. , continued 
man of Committee, 119; his two 
casting votes, 127, 128; his zeal 
and toil, favours penny rate, 129 ; 
supports Penny Postage Bill, 138 ; 
writes to Mrs Hill on its passing, 
141 ; urges Lord Melbourne to give 
appointment to R. H., 145, 181 ; 
retirement and death, 212 

Walmsleys, the, 37, 143 

Walsall, 67 

"Walter Press," the, 22 

War with France, 10, 18, 47 

War-tax, postal contribution to the, 

47, 55, 76 

Warburton, Hy., M P., 120, 127 ; serves 
on Parliamentary Committee and 
writes report, 129; favours penny 
rate, "Philosopher Warburton" at 
home, 130 ; on deputation to Lord 
Melbourne, questions Government in 
House, " Penny Postage is to be 
granted," 134 ; advises R. H. to 
attend debate, 125 ; supports Bill, 
138 ; urges giving appointment to 
R. H., 145 ; and restoration to office, 
212 ; interviews Postmaster- General, 

Watch-smuggling, 273 ; a stolen, 274, 


Waterloo, the battle of, I, 88 
Watford and St Albans' mails, 227 
Watson, Mr, 207 
Watt, James, 261, 303 
" Waverley," 78 
Wedding ring, episode of a, 302 
Weighing letters, 125 
Weight of chargeable letters one-fourth 

of the entire mail only, 103 ; average 

carried and capable of being carried 

by coach, 123 
Wellington, Duke of, I, 136, 137, 138, 

141, 224, 239, 260 
Wesley, John, 81 
West Indian Packet Service, 236 

West, Mr, on Etymology, 266 
Westminster, 76; the Hall, 156; the 

Abbey, 301, 303 
Wheatstone, Sir Chas. , 34 
Whitehead, Sir Jas., 302 
Whiting, Mr, 189, 198 
Widows' and Orphans' Fund, the P.O., 


Wild and visionary scheme, a, 120 
Wilde, Sir Thos. (Lord Truro), 36 
Wilkinson, Mr W. A., 115 
William I., German Emperor, 266 

III.,8i; IV., 19, 119 

Wills, Mr W. H., 31, 163, 266; Mrs 

Wills, 31 

Wilson, Mr L. P., 115 
Window immortalised by Dickens, a, 


Witch mania, the, 81 
Witherings, postal reformer, gives new 

meaning to the word "post," made 

"Master of the Posts," an able 

administrator, dismissed, 72, 73, 78 ; 

remarks on his treatment, 80, 179 
Wolverhampton, II, 23, 25, 26, 50, 52, 

133, 294 
Wolves, 159 
Wood, Mr J. (Stamps and Taxes 

Office), 188 

, Mr G. W., M.P., 120 

Works of Reference, 185, 186, 192, 

195, 196 
Wreckage, postal reform narrowly 

escapes, 127, 129 

Wurtemberg adopts postal reform, 251 
Wyon, Wm., R.A., 199 

YATES, Edmund, 154, 266, 280, 285 
"Year of Revolutions, The," 221, 239 
York, 74, 77 

, James, Duke of, 76 

Yorke, Hon. and Rev. G., 225 
Young, Arthur, 78 

ZERFFI, Dr, 37 

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